My Lindbergh Experiences and a Good Friend Needing Our Prayers...

I have a couple of friends who got into flying several years ago, both of whom fell in love with it whole-heartedly. Between the two of them they’ve bought and flown all sorts of ultra-lights and kit planes. They even have para-gliders, those gizmos where you actually wear the engine strapped to your back. With this contraption you actually have to run into the wind while simultaneously maneuvering the chute and throttling up the engine. Eventually, if all goes well, you fill the airfoil and are lifted off the ground. I have flown with both of them in their ultra-lights but have passed on the invitation to try the para-gliders. Even if I am coordinated enough to fly one, and that’s a big if, I don’t think I can currently afford the inevitable alimony payments that would come with it.

A few weeks ago, right before Easter, my wife talked these two Lindbergh types into flying over the school where she teaches to drop plastic Easter eggs onto the playground for the kindergarten egg-hunt. As fate would have it, one of them picked up a stomach virus and I had to fill in. Since it’s been a long time since I took flying lessons we decided it would be my duty to dump the eggs. Simple, right? The operation got off to a bit of a rocky start.

To begin with, the plane was too small for the pilot, a friend of mine named Keith Hinton, and me to sit side by side while I held a large garbage bag filled with the Easter eggs – and still be able to close the doors. So we took the doors off. I’d flown in an open cockpit ultra-light before so I figured it couldn’t be much different. And it probably wouldn’t have been had it not been for the sack full of Easter eggs. If you’re curious about how that is, try standing in the back of a pickup going 80 mph down the road while holding a big garbage bag. You’ll get flapped to death if you’re not careful.

We made it there and back alright, and at least some of the eggs landed on the school campus, if not exactly on the playground. But you can’t have everything. Keith didn’t want to fly lower than 700 feet and from that altitude it’s hard to judge exactly when to drop your missiles to land in the target zone. But it sure was fun trying.

 I have lived the last 5 or 6 years with a secret dread that one of my friends would get maimed or killed while flying or skydiving – they do that too. I’ve been told that in the Air Force there is an old saying that there are old pilots and bold pilots, but no old, bold pilots. One of my friends is something of a daredevil, and has been since I first met him when we were in the 7th grade. Keith, the other one, is by nature much more cautious and careful. Logic would dictate then that he’d be the one least likely to get hurt. Logic, as you may have come to learn, sometimes takes you down the wrong path.

This past Friday, while Keith and his wife were on the way to Destin for a weekend getaway, they got rear-ended on I-10 in Pensacola. The impact wasn’t all that great (I’m told the doors on his car will still open and close), but because of an odd confluence of physics and extraordinary bad luck, Keith’s neck was broken and he is now paralyzed from the chest down. It is unclear at the moment whether his paralysis is temporary or permanent.

I don’t know why bad things happen to good people, but they always have and they always will. Keith is as good a man as I’ve ever met; a rock-solid pillar of the community, an honest and savvy businessman and a stalwart member of the First United Methodist Church. He absolutely doesn’t deserve this.

I would appreciate it if you’d join me in praying for Keith. I believe in miracles and he and his family need one now. He will be moved to the Shepard Rehabilitation Center in Atlanta later this week to start his therapy. I’ve known several other people who were treated there, in some cases with amazing results. I know that God has a plan and a purpose, but for the life of me I don’t understand what it is here. Please pray hard.

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