littlecolourfulteacher

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quiet anti-hero: captain chesley “sully” sullenberger

March 11, 2017 , , , , , , ,

I am an unashamed plane fanatic.

I know nothing about cars, and have zero interest in anything else technological, except that it will function the way I need. I have the most basic understanding of how to fix things. I am average in all things IT. And yet, for some inexplicable reason, I love planes.

I live near an airport. With my music teacher’s ears, I can tell from anywhere in the house what sort of plane is flying overhead; regional, domestic, or international. And if it’s an international flight, there is just enough time for me to drop whatever I am doing, fly out the door, and catch the magnificent underbelly of the plane soaring over my home, arms-outstretched, almost able to be sucked up the the force of it.

So when a plane was safely landed in the Hudson River on January 15th 2009, I knew that this was extraordinary. As has been said so many times over, and as I had learned through my incidental “plane-reading”, people don’t survive water landings. But when the extraordinary-ness of the event had settled, there was something far more extraordinary that captured my attention, and that was the very person of Captain Chesley Sullenberger.

What an amazing man of discipline, courage, and purpose. His life has not been perfect; he’s faced as much adversity and hardship as anybody else, yet he carries himself with quiet grace and dignity. His words are governed by humility and authority, both, and when he speaks, you want to listen. Nothing he does is extravagant, and the way he has handled the tidal wave of attention from the rest of the world whilst quietly threading together the lives of his wife and children has been gracious, and tiring, and adaptive.

What is most extraordinary to me is that he didn’t ask for any of this, and yet he has said to the media that this is something he adapted to, and has learned to do so for the greater good. I don’t know that I would have had that courage! I would have been battening down the doors and hiding in full introvert mode, and unable to meet the needs and requests of so many families, who needed to express their gratitude. He assumed this role, one that takes its toll on himself and his family, for the good of the public, for the education of others in the aviation world, and the wider community.

He takes time to examine both sides of a story, even if he has strong opinions on his part. He is constantly curious about, humbled, and invigorated by his craft – flying – and has been so since age 5. How many people know that sense of dedication and service? How many people can claim that sort of discipline, purpose, and complete love of learning in life? His love for his wife and daughters is quiet and absolute, there is no fanfare. He is not a doormat, his opinions are formed from a basis of knowledge gleaned from constant learning and refinement of his understanding of events, situations, and technologies. His words have so much quiet essence and power.

And while this event happen 9 years ago, and I have no connection whatsoever except in my love of planes, I am absolutely and completely inspired. The quiet dedication and purpose that goes against everything that is so flamboyant and loud in our world. That simple words and intelligence can cut through as powerfully as anything raucous. That this life in the spotlight is one that thousands of people covet, and Sully would give anything NOT to be living. And yet he has taken responsibility for his new-chosen role.

And I think to myself, would I have the courage?

Am I living every corner of my life, with courage and grit, using every talent and opportunity presented to me, even if I am afraid and do not like the hand I have been dealt? 

It’s easy to live your life when it’s to your own parameters. Anyone can do that. But to walk with grace when you have a situation that you don’t want, and to live it with courage and give what you have been called to give, even if it is hard and takes it out of you?

Oh, I hope that I have the courage to do that.

Thank you for your example of grace and courage, Sully.

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