A comedian once told the story of being on an airplane from New York to Los Angeles. Fifteen minutes into the flight, the captain came overhead and told the passengers that due to modifications to the airplane, they now have free Wi-Fi to use for the duration of the flight. As to be expected, all the passengers began to pull out all their electronic devices and log on to the newly gifted and precious internet. The comedian, in only the way a comedian could, starts over exaggerating about all the fun and excitement the passengers are having now that they have free internet for the next four hours. Ten minutes later, the captain, again coming over the intercom system, sadly tells the passengers and crew that the Wi-Fi seems to be overloaded and will not continue to work. The comedian then gets an angry mob face and tells the story of pure anarchy. People are yelling and screaming, kicking over chairs and threatening a full mutiny (he is of course joking, but you get his point).
The comedian finishes his act and walks over to the hosts table and takes a seat. As they are chatting the host asks him if the story about the airplane is true. The comedian, still in performance mode, tells the host that it was in fact a true story, that people were going crazy. He went on to say that “we are sitting in magical chairs, IN THE AIR, flying from New York to L.A., a trip that took months in a covered wagon now takes up four hours, You are a Greek Myth right now!!” He is performing, but like George Carlin, he is also telling the truth and making a huge point. The people on the flight were mad about not having a service, that they didn’t even plan on having in the first place. The perspective was lost on just how lucky and amazing flying can be, all for the anger of free Wi-Fi and the ability to check ones email, to find out about a meeting they really had no interest in attending anyway.
I am guilty as charged to the above scenario. I too have complained about the “first world problems” that seem to ascend on me when I have no time for them. I am the person that refused to take hot showers for weeks after returning from Haiti and Honduras, and here I am, pissed at the fact that I have to pay 10 cents more for fuel for my vehicle, that I can drive to a warm office and make good money, to spend at Target for whatever the hell I want. I don’t have to ask permission to say things and I certainly don’t have to worry about the problems I have seen first hand in third world countries.
And yet, I still get annoyed. I still have my moments of entitlement.
It is human nature, I get it. I have seen better, I have known better and I have certainly done better, but from time to time, I don’t care. And I should.
I am warm, I am fed and I am happy. I am all those things not because of my own efforts, although I will take full responsibility of my life’s decisions; but I am good because people are good. I have clothes because of the people that farm the cotton and the people that make them. I am fed because of farmers and ranchers, and the people that drive trucks to get those products to the stores. And let’s not forget the people that work in the wee hours of the night to stock the store and the person that sometimes checks me out.
As I write this, I am drinking my second cup of coffee from a different cup, because I am too lazy to go find the place where I sat my first one and I am fortunate enough to have more than one cup. I am spoiled. And I know it.
This isn’t meant to be preachy, nor damning. We are all here, on the same rock circling the same big ball of fire. This is the best time to be alive, whether you choose to believe that or not, but it certainly is. We have learned to think that the worst is here because that is all we hear. Good news travels slow, bad news fast, and awful news instantaneously. We are no longer told facts, just commentary of how we should react to events.
So for Lent this year, I am not giving up anything. Nope, the whole purpose of Lent is to sacrifice, to abstain and reflect. And that is what I plan on doing by not giving up things. On the contrary, I am not giving up on people. I am not giving up on the person at the store that seems to annoy me. I am not giving up on myself for simply being human, and I am not giving up on you. I love you, all of you, even the ones that don’t like coffee (for you I will do my best to change your mind).
Perhaps I am silly in this cause, but I don’t mind. I’m am sure I will need all the patience I can get to see it through, and I am sure I will need all the company and practice.
The flight of life is not long, and sure, we may get some comforts from time to time handed to us and taken away. But in the end, we don’t need the stuff we think we need for a lovely flight, we just need to look around and chat with the people around us, and marvel at the fact that we humans have taken to the sky like the birds, and that anything is possible, with a little help from our friends.