Friday, April 17, 2009

the privilege of being human

For: The Institute of Contemporary And Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephen's University, Essentials Green Online Worship Values Course with Dan Wilt

I just returned from 5 days in Florida. This trip held a number of firsts for me, one of which was flying first class. Thanks to the generosity of our hosts, Dean and I were able to enjoy this rare treat together. I had been told about the special treatment we would get: the special line to check in, the special food, the special attention to our needs, and the special seats. I was looking forward to this experience of not being one of the "regular" people for a change.

We arrived at the airport and got into the special line which was indeed much shorter than the regular line, but soon after we got there, we saw our check-in agent walk away. She did not return for a long time, obviously dealing with the special needs of the people in front of us, and we were left standing there feeling somewhat un-special. At the stop-over in Toronto, we disembarked and got into another special line with only one family in front of us. Yes, this was going to be great, I thought as I eyed the line-up of 20 people in the "regular" queue beside us. I observed the family at the special counter in front of us and things did not seem to be going too well. After about 5 minutes of phone calls and very intense conversation which included gesturing with several sheets of paper, the lady turned to us and said, "You might as well get in the other line because we are going to be awhile." So much for special attention. I hung my head and shuffled to the back of the regular line. First class treatment was falling short of what I been promised.

On the way back from Florida, I was flying without Dean. I boarded the plane and sat down in first class, seat 1A. My seat mate, a kind older gentleman, offered to put my bag in the overhead bin for me. How nice of him! I thanked him and gave him the bag. He turned, rose from his seat, and in doing so, upset his cup of coffee which was on the small table between us. Hot black liquid landed on my right leg and spread over my entire thigh. Thankfully, it was not scalding and I was wearing a pair of dark jeans. Nevertheless, even after a quick clean-up and apologies and light laughter all around, I was sitting in wet pants for the next few hours.

I was thinking about my experiences in first class and realised that somewhere along the line I had adopted a certain attitude of entitlement. I should be treated better than this! I paid for good service! I should be reimbursed for the inconvenience! This attitude that I deserve more than the next person, that I am a privileged human being, is filthy. Just plain filthy. Where I used to have patience and grace, I was now huffy and proud and ungrateful. It was a rude awakening for me, and I repented for my stinky attitude. Jonathan Edwards writes that "our religion takes root within us only as deep as our affections attract it," and one of these affections is gratitude. [1]

The privilege is not in getting special treatment, but in being a human being, alive and cognisant on this earth. The privilege is to live in the light of the sun every day, to feel the heat and the cold, the pain and the ecstasy, and to be wondrously affected by it all. The privilege is to be on this earth with over 6 billion other human beings, all of whom have the potential to make my life a richer experience. The privilege is that I can get a seat on an airplane for a vacation, that there is coffee to drink, that I have jeans to wear, and that there are kind strangers. If all four collide, then so be it.

It is a privilege to be able to write these words with ten functioning fingers from a comfortable home office while drinking a cup of green chai tea. Thank you, God, for the privilege of being a human that lives under your love and constant care.

This is a photo of my slightly sun-burned feet on the Naples, Florida beach on Wednesday.

[1] Jonathan Edwards, Devotional Classics, Richard J. Foster and James Bryan Smith, eds. (New York: HarperCollins, 2005), 21.

No comments: