I awoke in Montana with a smile on my face knowing I would be in Singapore in approximately 30 hours with stops in Denver and Tokyo along the way. Easy riding until Tokyo, where the lesson in gratitude really begins.
Upon entering security to pass through to my connecting international flight, I was asked to show my boarding pass and passport like I had done many times before. After searching my carry-on, my passport seemed to be missing in action. I was escorted to the United Service Center, where I requested to go back on the plane in search of the missing passport. I had been rummaging around in my carry-on in the dark in the overhead and surely I must’ve knocked the passport out. I was told I couldn’t reboard, but I was assured that a United representative would check thoroughly around my seating area and in the overhead compartment where my carry-on had been. Imagine my surprise when their search turned up empty. Where else could it possibly be and now what would happen? The plot thickens!
I asked to go to the United Club to do another search of my carry-on and call the US Embassy to see my options. The US Embassy in Japan recommended asking a United representative to escort me to immigration where we would plead my case having the number of the US Embassy to back us up if needed. Once I cleared immigration, I would stay the night in a hotel in Tokyo, head to the US Embassy in the morning to get a new passport, come back to the airport and catch a flight to Singapore. Inconvenient? Yes! Better options? No. And best of all, I wouldn’t miss my best man responsibilities in my good buddy’s wedding.
Under no circumstances would Japan immigration let me leave the airport without a passport! A call to the country manager of United in Singapore confirmed my worst thoughts. I would be deported back to the United States on the next flight.
Next flight back was to Honolulu where I would arrive early in the morning. Hey, at least it’s Hawaii. Who wouldn’t want to go to Hawaii, right? As with any circumstance in life, I knew I could choose how I wanted to react to the situation.
I feel very lucky that whenever I find myself in unfortunate circumstances, my first reaction is gratitude for a very fortunate life. I count my blessings as I look for the silver lining in the challenging situation. I do believe that by looking for the gifts, we find the gifts. Finding a miracle starts with expecting a miracle.
Upon landing in Honolulu with no passport back in the US, an immigration officer escorted me to one of those private rooms where the people on the ‘no fly lists’ go to be interrogated about every aspect of their life and behavior from the day they were born. Surely, my fate would be better. In a fairly friendly manner I was interrogated about my missing passport and the extenuating circumstances Knowing that everything would be okay, once again, my thoughts turned to having gratitude for a happy family and a fortunate life.
My next thoughts were of the desperate Syrian immigrants whose future was so much less certain and heartbreaking. What horrible circumstances they face! My next thoughts turned to Village Focus International in Vientiane Laos, a partner of ours at “Together We Can Change the World” and all the kids they try to rescue who have been trafficked from Laos to Thailand and stripped of their identification leaving them vulnerable to a system that is so often, unkind. These are the true victims in the world that I would love to take out of harm’s way if only I could.
Unfortunately, by the time I got out of the interrogation room, I had no time to get to the US Embassy to get my passport replaced and still make it back to catch the plane to Tokyo at 10:30 AM. So I gave up on attending the wedding, rented a car and drove to Waikiki Beach looking for the little miracles to come my way on this new, unexpected journey. After a reflective day filled with little blessings, I boarded the flight to Denver with the same attitude of gratitude that I arrived in Honolulu with. I know the worst things in life always contain some seeds of the best if we’re willing to look for those seeds.
It really doesn’t matter the circumstances, there always seems to be a silver lining in your clouds of misfortune if you allow all of life’s inconveniences to impart a lesson in gratitude. Yes, things happen the best for the people that make the best out of the things that happen.
I’d love you to share your silver lining story.