Many years ago, I was asked to drive the bus for a field trip from Mobile, Alabama to Navarre Beach, Florida. We were going to eat an early lunch on the beach, go to the zoo, and then have the students back home by the time the sun went down. There were twenty-five students and five chaperones including myself. The two-hour drive was uneventful. We were almost to the top of the Navarre Beach Causeway Bridge when we heard a loud “Ka-Boom” that shook the whole bus. I stopped the bus at the very top of the bridge so we would not slide forwards or backwards, and then applied the emergency brakes. After a few moments of watching smoke billowing out, we raised the hood to discover a piston hanging outside of the engine: we had blown a head gasket. This was about as bad as it gets. One of the chaperones called the school and asked for them to send another bus and a huge wrecker to tow the broken down vehicle back to Mobile. They told us it would be three hours before they could meet us.
Since we could see the Gulf waters from where we were, I suggested letting the students walk down the bridge to the beach, but a couple of the chaperones thought that way too dangerous. So there we were: twenty-five students on a hot day, stuck in a bus on top of a bridge with no air conditioning. This was not what I signed up for. One of the chaperones started asking me if I had been watching the oil gauge, implying it was my fault the engine blew up. Another chaperone began calculating how much this was going to cost the school. Traffic was backed up for miles with angry tourists honking their horns. When one student asked to go to the bathroom, six others said they had to go as well. This was not my idea of fun. We all know the saying, “When life hands you a lemon, just make lemonade.” That sounds nice, but it’s no fun when you are the lemon and you are getting the life squeezed out of you. We needed something to change the atmosphere.
As soon as a police officer came to relieve me from directing traffic, I went back inside the bus and asked the chaperones and students for their attention. I informed them they were no longer on a school bus. They were now traveling on the flying ship known as the “SS Navarre.” The students were no longer classmates. They were now shipmates. We were no longer chaperones: we were captains. I informed them the “Ka-Boom” heard earlier was a cannonball that struck the front of our flying ship. We then taught the shipmates to say Navarre like good pirates do: “Na-vaRRRR…” We played Hide the Treasure which was just an adaptation of Hide the Biscuit, a game I had learned to play with a chalk eraser in the fourth grade. We put a twist to the popular game hangman, and called it Walk the Plank. We even played Pass The Cannonball where students put a tennis ball under their chin and passed the “cannonball” to the person next to them without using their hands. Before we knew it, three hours had gone by and a new bus was there to pick us up in time to eat lunch at the beach, and still make it to the zoo. A week later, one of the parents told me their daughter didn’t mention anything about the beach or the zoo, but she wouldn’t stop talking about the “SS Navarre.”
Sooer or later, life goes “Ka-Boom” for everyone in one way or another. When it does, rise to the occasion and change the atmosphere.
Rick Moore is Communications Pastor at Destiny Worship Center.