The big news story of the week is the remarkable heroism of Capt. Tammie Jo Shults—the Southwest Airlines pilot who calmly landed a heavily damaged jetliner with a single functional engine and a hole gaping in the side of the plane.
Sadly, one passenger died after an engine exploded in midair during the Southwest flight on Tuesday morning. Jennifer Riordan didn’t survive the blunt impact of debris that broke a window, despite the efforts of passengers who pulled her away from the hole and tried to revive her.
But by the time the plane made its emergency landing, Capt. Shults’ precise professionalism had saved 142 other passengers and the flight crew from what could have been a catastrophic crash.
Moments later, Shults walked through the aisle hugging stunned passengers.
“It was very touching,” passenger Benjamin Goldstein told The Dallas Morning News. “Here at the most crucial moment, she had the presence of mind and the courage to act with excellence as it was required. It’s a beautiful quality, and we have our lives to thank for it.”
A beautiful quality indeed.
Shults’ friends in her hometown of Boerne, Texas, said the quality was a hallmark of the Christian wife and mother of two, and that it extended beyond her successful career as a Navy and commercial pilot.
A fellow church member at First Baptist Church in Boerne told the paper that Shults had taught nearly every grade level of Sunday school in their congregation. Shults has helped at a school for at-risk kids, and she’s used a guesthouse on her family’s property as a home for victims of Hurricane Rita and for widows.
For Shults, a life of ordinary good works preceded an extraordinary day on the job last Tuesday. When a friend texted Shults to tell her she was praying for her, Shults replied: “Thanks. God is good.”
Simply doing a good job isn’t usually heroic, but if done well, the most ordinary work can bring glory to God as well. Still, not everyone sees the beautiful quality in every good work.
Last week, an over-the-top editorial in The New Yorker excoriated food chain Chick-fil-A for its newest restaurant in Manhattan. Writer Dan Piepenbring was clear about the roots of his disdain: “There’s something especially distasteful about Chick-fil-A. … Its politics, its décor, and its commercial-evangelical messaging are inflected with this suburban piety.”
He balked at the owners’ Christian faith and how the company’s corporate mission statement “still begins with the words ‘to glorify God.’” The satirical news site the Babylon Bee reliably offered a tongue-in-cheek response: “Evil Christians Oppress Secular New Yorkers With Delicious Chicken Sandwiches.”
Despite the writer’s disdain for a company with owners who don’t hide their Christian faith, throngs of customers still think the restaurant offers good food and good service. They line up for it, whatever their religious beliefs.
CEO Dan Cathy isn’t embarrassed that he wants his company to glorify God, or that he wants his workers to care about their customers.
At a speech in Atlanta in 2015, Cathy told members of the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association: “We want to be a brand where good meets gracious. A brand where great food intersects with incredibly gracious people.”
That’s the heart of good work: Make a good product or deliver a good service for the good of other people. That can be true whether you’re flying a plane or making a sandwich for a hungry customer. Men and women made in the image of their Creator are hard-wired for productivity.
It’s what King Solomon meant in the book of Ecclesiastes when he said each person should “find enjoyment” in all his toil. That phrase can also be translated “make his soul see good” in all his work.
And sometimes, our work does great good for other people. It certainly was good for passengers of Southwest Airlines Flight 1380. One family friend said she wasn’t surprised when she heard Capt. Shults’ toil had saved the day: “She’s a strong Christian lady. … She was doing her job. … So proud she was able to do her job.”