The Texan

The pilot is a Texan, resettled for some years in Michigan, but still a Texan; plainspoken, fiercely independent, sometimes gruff. I sent him a text on Saturday about a patient who needed to get home from the Mayo Clinic. He called back and I could tell by his voice that he didn’t really want to go, and he could tell by my voice that I didn’t really want to ask, but a day later, here we are, shutting down in Rochester, MN.

Texans are pretty tough, I think. As we struggle out of the hot airplane and scuff across the smoldering ramp, I see that he’s still dragging his leg a bit, pushing through an injury he didn’t bother to mention the last time I asked him to help.

We whoosh through the sliding glass doors, into the sweet, cool air of the FBO where Liz, the patient, is waiting. She’s had a rough time, enduring a series of painful surgeries and bone transplants, but she is cheerful and thankful and ready to go home. Liz reminds me a little of the last patient we flew together, the Texan and I. Debra was returning to Marquette, weak and in pain, and desperate to get home.

Texans are pretty tough, but – like all supermen – they have their Kryptonite. For this guy, it’s people in trouble. About an eighth of an inch beneath the crusty Texan exterior, I suspect that Scott is full of goo. His leg hurts, and it’s hot as blazes and there are a million other things he could be doing with his Sunday, but those things all hurt less than knowing that he could have helped someone but didn’t.

This is sort of a story about Scott and Liz and Debra, but it’s also a story about Alsae, Scott’s granddaughter. A few months ago, when she faced her own crisis, Wings of Mercy was able to help and, well, any friend of Alsae is a friend of Scott’s. Since then, he’s donated his time and airplane to help quite a few people. Her mom once told me that “Alsae’s light shines bright”, and so it does. Her courage and love for life now shine through Scott upon Liz and Debra and others. That’s what love does; melts our heart of stone and turns us to goo, helps us feel the ache in the stranger.

So this is sort of a story about Scott, but it’s also a story about all our pilots; tough guys (and a few gals) who push themselves hard to become strong and capable. But their strength is only half of the story. When the phone rings or the email arrives – the sometimes-annoying people at Wings of Mercy again, asking for help – something strange often happens. Beneath the tough exterior, a big heart pounds. The pilot remembers a brave and beautiful face – an Alsae or Liz or Debra, remembers that someone is hurting, and decides that whatever else he had planned to do that day is not so important after all.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
1 John 3

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
Ezekiel 36

More about Alsae here:

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