Finding the Joy in Disappointment

As you well know, the best part of any Christmas is being together with the entire family in one place, enjoying the beautiful Christmas decorations, a festive table, eating delicious, rich dishes that we only get this time of year, opening presents from one another and witnessing the joy on our grandchildren’s face as they tear open their gifts. But, without a doubt, the absolute best part is just being together with every child and their spouse, and every grandchild in the house sharing in the festivities.

As in years past, that was our plan for this Christmas. We even moved our family celebration to the 26th so that the entire family could be together. My daughter and her family were to celebrate Christmas Day at their home in Texas and then fly in on the morning of the 26th for our family get-together.

But then this happened!

Like thousands of others, we had our Christmas disrupted by Southwest Airlines’ technical problems. My daughter’s family discovered upon arrival at the airport on the morning of December 26 that their flight had been canceled. Since she was nearly eight months pregnant, driving the thirteen hours to Tennessee was out of the question.

Of course, I wasn’t alone in my disappointment this holiday season. My sister-in-law fought back tears as she told me their flight to California on December 26 to be with her son’s family was canceled. It had been nine months since she had seen them and she had been looking forward to the trip ever since their last visit.

We’ve seen videos of the horror stories of people stranded in airports for days, some without their luggage or their needed medications. We’ve heard about the much-anticipated vacations to Hawaii or the Caribbean canceled because the flights could get them there. Some of the stories are heartbreaking.

Making it Right

Southwest has long been my favorite airline. It’s always the first place I check when booking a flight. But, they made a big mistake by putting off upgrading their technology, and, unfortunately, it caught up with them at the most inopportune time.

Their leaders have taken full responsibility and come out with an apology and I believe they will make the necessary upgrades to prevent this from happening again. They have gone overboard to refund passengers, take care of their hotel or rental car costs, etc. That is admiral, but the one thing that they can’t refund is time with our loved ones. Unfortunately, that’s gone forever.

The Cure

We have to look for the silver lining in every situation we cannot control. We may not be able to change the circumstance, but we can feel much better about our dilemma when we look for the positive.

So what were the positives from something as disappointing as missing Christmas with our grandchildren?

  1. Southwest refunded them the cost of their tickets and also gave them $800 in credits. I’m sure they could use those funds with a baby on the way and having to buy a bigger car.
  2. Besides being very pregnant, my daughter was also suffering from an eye infection at the time. Being home and resting for the week was probably more healthy for her than coming in and having a full week of activities with both our family and her husband’s family.
  3. My husband and I will be traveling to Texas to help them out when the baby is born in late January. We’ll bring all their Christmas presents with us so the two boys will have new toys to play with while she’s in the hospital and caring for a new baby.
  4. They say that anticipation is half the fun, so now we get to anticipate seeing them for another whole month.

Yes, I’m sorry that I didn’t get to hear the pitter-patter of those little feet at my house during Christmas week or spend time with my daughter. I’m disappointed that the two boys missed going to Cheekwood to see all the Christmas lights and that I missed seeing the joy on their faces as the little lit-up trains made their way through the tracks in the woods. I hate that my daughter and son-in-law missed the annual steak restaurant dinner with their siblings and their spouses.

But when situations are out of control, we have a choice. We can choose to dwell on the negative or think about the positive. Since dwelling on the negative never changes anything, I chose to do that only for a little bit, but then decided it was time to look to the positive. That’s when the joy comes back.

One thing this debacle must have driven home to Southwest and all airlines is that they’re not just transporting bodies from one point to another. They are transporting human beings with their souls, spirits, and relationships, with the joys, sorrows, circumstances, and everything else that comes with the living.

While taking down the Christmas decorations this year, I was still thankful for the precious, joyous Christmas we had with the rest of the family, but I had to admit that it felt incomplete. And it’s okay to grieve for a while for something we missed. But now it’s time to look forward to our next visit with them and anticipate seeing the joy on those boys’ faces when they open their Christmas presents at the end of January. Then we get to witness the best present of all when we all lay eyes on that precious little sister, our tenth grandchild, for the first time! And this time we will be driving!

Weeping may stay for the night, but joy comes in the morning,

Psalm 30:5

2 thoughts on “Finding the Joy in Disappointment

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