The Need for Reflection
Joe Ehrmann, former NFL player, ordained minister and focus of the book Season of Life, has told us that as men we need to periodically take time to reflect on our lives, to see the bigger picture and to consider how we can impact our children; rather than staying busy and just doing the next thing in front of us. This past week, I felt the need to take Joe’s advice again and spend time reflecting. Remembering the past often helps me see a clearer way forward.
On September 11, 2001, I began a business trip on an airplane that landed at Reagan National Airport about 9:00 a.m. Shortly, as we rode the shuttle bus to the nearby rental car lot, all of us saw black smoke billowing from the horizon. We soon discovered that as part of that tragic day, an airplane had crashed into the Pentagon not far from us. I was lucky. I was never really in harm’s way; but, I will never forget that view from the shuttle.
After that horrific day, the lives of Americans changed in many ways. For me, one practical change involved my ongoing airline travel. In addition to Be There Dad, I regularly travel on airplanes for my “mortgage paying job”. I had frequented airports for years before 9/11 and I have for years since. After that attack, the government intervened and made a number of changes to air travel in the name of safety and security for our citizens. They put restrictions on my ability to fly and limited my freedom.
In order to fly on a commercial airline, I need a government-issued identification.
I have to check in and receive a boarding pass before I can enter the airport concourse. When I do, I have to go through security complete with metal detectors. For years, I have had to remove my overcoat. I have had to remove my shoes. I have had to remove my laptop and electronics from my briefcase. All the while, going through security, government employees watch me closely and listen for suspicious comments, remarks and even jokes.
Once I board the plane, I am no longer able to use my cell phone as I choose. I am told to turn it off and stow my laptop. I must remain in my seat when directed to do so. I must do exactly what the pilots and flight attendants tell me to do.
As time has gone by, I have been able to expedite the boarding process by obtaining TSA “Pre-Check” recognition. But still, the government required me to make an appointment at a government office, complete an application and consent to a background check. The government took my name, personal information, a picture and even fingerprints. My information is now in a governmental data base. There was a waiting period before I was approved.
Subject to Search
Over the past twenty years, as I have navigated through airport security and at the gate prior to boarding, security officers have randomly seized my luggage and emptied all the contents. I have been randomly selected from the queue for an extra “pat down” by a security officer. My briefcase has been searched because a one-pound bag of M & M’s looked suspicious on the x-ray. My carry-on has been pulled because I forgot to dispose of a bottle of Coke Zero. For several years, I couldn’t carry a nail file or grooming scissors in my carry-on luggage.
Common Sense Changes for Me.
With all these changes, I have had to adjust how I approach my business trips. I must allow more time. I have to leave home earlier. I pack differently. I have to plan ahead. But in this time of reflection, I see that these changes are all really common sense rules. Rules written by experts we should trust to make our society safer. Requiring an i.d. issued by the government. Having a background check. Reasonable waiting periods. Limiting what I can carry on the plane [including anything considered a weapon]. Being subject to search. Having my name in a data base. All for the purpose of safety and security. All in all, the changes have not been that significant for me. I have gotten used to them, as have many others like me. I still fly regularly. My life goes on. The government has not taken away my freedom to fly wherever and whenever I choose.
So, now I anticipate a waiting line as I enter security. When the TSA agent pulls me aside for any reason, I respectfully comply. If they want to look in my luggage, it is OK with me. I have nothing to hide. If I am asked to walk through the metal detector a second time, still OK with me. Step aside for a pat down? Fine, go ahead. Just be gentle and respectful, too. Every time I walk through security, I thank the agents for the work they do. Are the changes all worth it? I think they have made air travel safer.
For the People
The government has encouraged us, “If you see something, say something.” A kind of red flag procedure. Another way to look out for each other. As a country we have agreed to put in place reasonable rules that have and will potentially save the lives of many. As Americans, we discuss, we debate, we vote, we implement, then we comply.
Completing my time of reflection, I ask myself how I can use my thoughts moving forward to help children understand and develop. When I talk to children, what lesson can I offer for their backpacks? When they ask why I comply with rules imposed by the government, how will I answer? After explaining the purpose and common sense of the rules, I hope the conversation might include how democracy is not so much about each of us as it is about ALL of us. I hope the conversation may note that the often quoted remarks of President Lincoln do not say “government of me, by me and for me”. Rather, they say, “government of the PEOPLE, by the PEOPLE and for the PEOPLE (shall not perish).” Democracy is about our collective freedom. It is about coming together and taking care of each other, while sometimes making individual sacrifices. More to my character, as a dad who seeks to help those children understand and develop; if they ask me why I support and comply with reasonable rules, my first reaction may be to tell them because that’s what grown-ups do.
In this week of tragedy and loss, reflecting on my past has helped me focus on what needs to be done in the future.
God bless the little children.