Tuesday, December 3, 2013
Airlines School of Prayer
Last month the New York Times printed some letters from people about airplane etiquette. I laughed with recognition as I read the column (November 10, 2013): nytimes.com/travel. Many of the letters seem to be complaints about air travel, and the other people travelling: they smell, they’re noisy, they dress inappropriately. All stuff you would expect people might say if given a chance to vent about the exigencies of air travel.
But there was one voice which appealed to me, prodding me to deeper reflection. A guy from Canada wrote: “I fly up to four times a week. Though flying resembles a bus trip now with its many deprivations, it is wonderfully fast. Flying allows me to get somewhere and put in a full day’s work at the same time. As far as I am concerned, this outweighs all the challenges. More than this, I have come to appreciate that I can’t control others on a plane, but I can control myself. I am learning to treat the staff with respect and other passengers with consideration and mercy. I confess I was a disgruntled flier when I began to fly all the time. Since I decided to change my attitude and be thankful for the way flying has opened up the whole world to us, the whole experience has become eminently better.” (Thanks to Philip Hills for his contribution to the NYTimes)
I was reminded of all this last week on a trip to England—a quick trip for me, only seven days. We were delayed, the whole business seemed aggravating and too much. But then I thought: “So what? What are you going to do about it?” I decided it wasn’t worth a coronary, and just count my lucky stars I was going to England!
I logged over 63,000 miles this year, a lighter travel schedule than normal. During moments of recollection and relative sanity, my own philosophy is that air travel is transportation, not something to bolster my ego. I reject the come-ons telling me I deserve better, and the ranking of platinum, gold, silver, elite and all the rest of it. Perhaps I am unique among Franciscans, but I think that if I am asked by my seat mate what I do, I don’t want to admit to being a religious vowed to poverty while sitting in a First Class seat. Like the writer above, gratitude can change my attitude from a snide, persnickety and critical outlook to one of acceptance. It takes the sting out of travel.
I am reminded of the old saying: watch out for what you pray for. I am always praying for patience, compassion, and love to be more deeply part of me. So God puts me in situations where these are exactly the things I need to cultivate and exhibit. It’s not possible to be patient unless you are in an aggravating situation!