For What It’s Worth

Why so nervous?

One Saturday a few weekends ago, Carol and I had the privilege and the fun of attending a flying competition for RC (radio-controlled) model airplanes. Our son-in-law is an RC plane enthusiast and was flying his plane in the competition. Since the event was in suburban Wichita, only a short drive from here, and we had never watched Art fly in competition, we hopped in the car and zipped up I-35 to Wichita for a nice Friday night-Saturday outing visiting our daughter and son-in-law and watching him fly.

For those of you who don’t know, RC plane hobbyists take their hobby seriously. Well they should since they invest significant time and effort, as well as a coin or two, into enjoying their hobby. Most of them build and fly their own planes.

In the competition, they fly their planes in a circle around three strategically placed pylons. The pylons are tall, slender poles, perhaps 20 to 30 feet in height (that’s a stab-in-the-dark guess as I don’t know for sure the height). I don’t know the distance involved either. I just know that in the categories of competition being flown that Saturday the planes could make 11 laps around the pylons in under two minutes, some under a minute and 45 seconds. They zoomed around with speeds about 190 miles an hour in turns and more than 200 mph in straight flight.

A race consisted of five heats with points earned based on the competitor’s finish in each heat. Three competitors flew in each heat, and, believe me, that was enough. Any more than that and there would have been airplane parts flying everywhere.

In most heats, the participating planes finished intact, i.e., in one piece. However, in several heats planes either collided in midair, dived to the ground due to pilot error, or crash-landed. It was spectacular to watch, but agonizing for the competitors.

Needless to say, competitors can be a bit nervous or apprehensive when they take the field for a race. They are risking pride and ego in addition to a plane that took significant time, effort, and money to build.

As the competition was about to start, I listened to several competitors chatting about being nervous. Responding to an inquiry, one man, a veteran competitor, said that he didn’t really get nervous. But, he added this comment: “My first time, I was really nervous as we were revving up to start. Then, I said to myself, ‘As a Navy pilot, I made 493 carrier landings, 198 of them at night, and I’m nervous about flying this toy plane?’ Haven’t really been nervous since.”

His comment has stuck with me.

How many times have I been nervous or fearful when doing something I know should not cause me to be apprehensive or fearful? Certainly, nothing I face entails the danger or possible consequences faced by a pilot landing a jet on a carrier deck. I was part of the ship’s crew, not a pilot, but I served on a carrier while in the Navy, so I have some knowledge of the possible consequences.

During my career as a reporter, I often experienced apprehension or nervousness about approaching certain people or situations for information. At times, the consequences were angry words and threats, but that was the exception, not the rule. So, why was I that nervous?

In today’s world, as Christians we may sometimes face certain situations with nervousness. Should I speak up? What happens if I do? Is silence or non-action the wiser course to take? Who am I going to offend in this culture where offense so easily occurs?

Perhaps the pilot’s comment doesn’t strike a chord with you, but it does with me.

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For What It’s Worth

Which window?

Interesting the way we view things sometimes. I thought about this when I read the following story on a friend’s Facebook post.

A couple moved into a new neighborhood, and the next morning, while eating breakfast, the woman sees her neighbor hanging the wash out to dry.

“That laundry is not very clean,” she commented to her husband. “She doesn’t know how to wash correctly. Or, perhaps, she needs better laundry soap.”

Her husband looked out at the neighbor but said nothing.

A few weeks went by, and each time the neighbor hung her wash out to dry the woman made the same comment. Each time, her husband remained silent.

Then, one day the woman was surprised to see a nice clean wash on the line and said to her husband, “Look, she’s finally learned how to wash correctly. I wonder who taught her?”

This time, the husband spoke. “I got up early this morning and cleaned our windows.”

So it is in life. What we see when observing others depends on the clarity of the window through which we are looking.

More often than we think, perhaps, when we are watching others and making judgments and evaluations, we are watching through a dusty or dirty window. Whatever is on the window dims or discolors our view, and we reach wrong conclusions. Knocking the dust or grime off the window, though perhaps a painful experience (pun intended), clears the window as well as our view.

With the window cleaned, what we see is clearer and seemingly different from what had been our view. Yet the view is the same. It isn’t the wash being hung out that has changed; it is the window through which we are viewing.

When I read this brief allegory, I couldn’t help but wonder how many people I have misjudged, how many times I have formed wrong opinions about others because what I was viewing was being filtered through a dirty or grimy window.

If we are to relate fairly to others and understand them as they truly are, we need to be sure we have cleaned the windows through which we are observing them.

My spring cleaning this year may need some window washing. Does yours?

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For What It’s Worth

Cell phones encourage rudeness

The noise, though not loud, clearly echoed through the stillness of the sanctuary as the speaker spoke earnestly during the memorial service. Someone had failed to turn off a cell phone or change the sound mode to vibration.

It was unplanned and, no doubt, regretted. Nonetheless, a rude and unnecessary interruption.

Then, a few minutes later, another cell phone with greater volume and a distinct ring sounded off, drawing attention from several in the audience.

To some extent, I have come to expect cell phones to ring almost anywhere—church, classroom, concert, wedding, and myriad other places where one would hope they would be silenced. Although not surprised to hear them, I still am not accepting of it. With regret, I have to confess to having had my phone ring in places I should have had it turned off. Still, whether it happens to me or someone else, it is rude.

Without doubt, cell phones have made a major contribution for good and progress in our society. However, they also have been a major stimulus to a rise in rudeness in many arenas of life.

Aside from the irritation of the sound and the breaking of concentration a ringing cell phone produces, it can lead to serious distraction when the phone call recipient feels compelled to answer or, at least, yields to the temptation. For example, I recall visiting in a church service a few years ago in which a man seated about two-thirds of the way toward the front of the sanctuary put his phone to his ear and walked out with his flip-flops clacking. If that weren’t rude and distracting enough, a few minutes later he wandered back in and returned to this seat.

We have all experienced multiple times going to a store and standing in line while a fellow customer chats loudly on a cell phone, allowing us the unwanted opportunity of sharing in his or her private life. Sometimes, the individual is happily recounting something funny, other times it is a business transaction, and, unfortunately, often it is an angry conversation. In none of these instances is it any of our business. Plus, the individual too often engages in profane language, which certainly is rude and disrespectful. I find it particularly rude when such language is used with children present.

Rudeness also results when people stop in the middle of a conversation and chat on the phone rather than informing the caller that they can’t talk at the moment and will return the call later. Holding up progress at the checkout counter while trying to talk on the phone and to the store employee at the same time is also rude. Texting in class or having whispered conversation is both rude and disrespectful to your classmates and the teacher.

In addition to contributing to a rise in rudeness, cell phone usage can endanger the user and, more importantly, other individuals. It is not unusual to hear or read about a person who is concentrating so much on texting that he or she walks off a curb, runs into an object, falls into a pond or water fountain, or otherwise suffers embarrassment or injury.

Especially dangerous is texting and driving a vehicle. That has become one of the most prevalent causes of wrecks with injuries or fatalities. Yet, despite the sure knowledge that they could kill themselves and possibly others, people continue to text and drive. That is beyond rude. It is reckless and irresponsible.

At times, I wonder: Who is smarter, people or Smartphones?

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For What It’s Worth

Assumptions can be wrong

Interesting what can happen sometimes when assumptions are made.

Last week, for example, drug agents swarmed onto a property in Union County, Illinois, expecting to find a meth operation. Instead, they discovered a man’s hobby of making homemade maple syrup.

Resident Laura Benson told a TV station reporter that the drug agents acted on a report of a meth lab on the Bensons’ property. Why would the agents have such a report? Apparently, Benson suggests, because of an assumption. “I think my neighbors on their way to church see the buckets and stuff and think we’ve got a meth operation going on here,” she said.

The “buckets and stuff” are used to extract the sap from the maple trees and turn it into maple syrup, a hobby Benson’s husband has enjoyed for the past five years. She explained this to the drug agents and gave them a sample of her husband’s syrup for their enjoyment.

You might say this wrong assumption had a sweet ending, but things were a bit stickier for an elderly woman in Riviera Beach, Florida, when police raided her home in search of drugs and left the house with considerable damage.

The raid by Riviera Beach police occurred about 1 p.m. Dec. 18 at the home of a 90-year-old woman, who has lived at the residence for 25 years. She said she was sleeping and was awakened by a loud noise, “like a bomb or something.”

Windows were broken out, a door broken, and marks inside the house suggest a flash-bang device has been set off. The woman said she didn’t know how police got in, but she found them in her house talking about drugs. Police searched the house using drug-sniffing dogs but found nothing.

As with many TV new reports, the story reporting on the incident was short on information. It reported that police said they obtained a search warrant based on evidence of criminal activity at the house, but didn’t give any detail on what the alleged activity was. Nor did it indicate if police knocked before smashing through the door and setting off a flash-bang device. Police said the search warrant was executed at the correct address and, while the woman may not have had any knowledge of drugs being sold from her house, that didn’t mean the criminal activity didn’t happen.

However, the TV news report says, the police department since has done some temporary repairs and agreed to pay for new windows and door. The door is to be replaced this week and the new windows in place by Feb. 28.

At times, things are not as they may appear to be or we assume them to be; and, when we act on the basis of appearances or assumption, the results may not be what is intended. While the outcome may be maple syrup, we risk something more serious happening.

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For What It’s Worth

Never underestimate children

Youngsters are amazing at times, and quite often will surprise us with their competency—and recently in the case of two young girls their composure under pressure.

One young girl, a 4-year-old in Kalamazoo, Michigan, is being called a hero for dialing a 911 operator and summoning help for her mother who had collapsed in an epileptic seizure while nine months pregnant. The other, a 10-year-old in Lenexa, Kansas, volunteered her skill in sign language to assist first responders at the scene of an accident in which an injured driver was deaf.

In Kalamazoo, Calise Manning showed that even a 4-year-old can come through in the clutch if trained properly. Her mother, Centerria Manning, told a reporter that she had coached Calise in how to dial 911 and to give her name and address. They had practiced what to do in an emergency, she said.

That emergency came last week when the mother, nine months pregnant, apparently fell to the floor in the midst of a seizure. Calise called the 911 operator and said, “ She’s shaking and she’s having a baby. My mom is really pregnant and she’s having a boy and she really needs help.”

Thanks to the call, help arrived, and the mother was taken to the hospital. Two days later, Calise’s brother was born.

During the 7 ½-minute call, the dispatcher asked Calise, “How old are you, honey?” She responded “four” and added, “I’m almost getting bigger.” The dispatcher has recommended that Calise receive an award for being calm in a scary situation.

Scary might have been an appropriate word January 14 in Lenexa, Kansas, where Yesenia Diosdado, a fourth-grader, stepped in help a woman injured in a car wreck near the 10-year-old’s home. “She looked really hurt,” Yesena said. “Her face was bleeding and I didn’t want her to die or something. She was really hurt.”

She noticed that the woman was deaf and having a hard time communicating with first responders at the scene. So, she crossed the busy intersection near 77th and Quivira to offer help. EMS Capt. Chris Winger was surprised when the girl said, “I sign. Can I help?” Winger said he didn’t know what to say initially “because this doesn’t really happen at all.” But he accepted the offer, and Yesena’s assistance sped up the process of getting proper care for the injured driver.

Yesenia’s mother, Susan Mulidore, used to be an interpreter and taught all her children this skill.

Yesenia received an award from MED-ACT paramedics during a special assembly just for her Monday at her school, Rising Star Elementary School.

The girl apparently was nervous or scared to tell her mom about what happened. “Okay, what am I going to get mad about?” the mother said she remembers asking when her daughter told her.

She said her daughter replied, “Mom, I crossed the street.”

I am not only impressed by what Yesenia did; I’m impressed by her response to her mother. I see in both what she did and what she said to her mom the right training and upbringing the girl is receiving.

Don’t underestimate kids. Trained correctly, they can respond to situations and circumstances in an admirable manner, making you and the rest of us proud.

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For What It’s Worth

Shut the gate on gate

In yet another evidence of lack of originality or creativity, media writers, analysts, commentators, bloggers and whoever else have labeled the story about lowering the air pressure on about a dozen footballs for the recent NFL game between the Patriots and the Colts as—if you aren’t already aware of and bored stiff by it—deflategate.

Yep, deflategate.

What imagination and originality shown by whoever first used this clever little ditty to identify the story! Who would ever have thought of that? After all, “gate” has only been affixed to the end of a word about anything from a would-be controversial story to a truly controversial one since the Watergate break-in story commencing in 1972.

And now, in what I suppose someone thought was or thinks is a clever bit of journalistic ingenuity, a story about someone, as yet unknown, letting some small amount of air out of some footballs is labeled as a “gate.” That really pumps up the story.

I have no way to investigate this scientifically, nor do I know of a database or other source that would have a tally on the number of stories tagged as a “gate” in the subsequent 42-plus years since Watergate, but it certainly would be a three or four-digit number. But how is a writer looking to turn a clever phrase supposed to realize he or she is just overworking a cliché rather than coining an exciting, new catchword?

Since I am old, senile, and rather cynical about many things, perhaps I’m missing something here. Maybe tagging “gate” onto the end of a word makes for a more exciting story. Apparently, it works. Right? How exciting does a headline about releasing some air from 11 footballs sound to you? Probably not very exciting. But, call the story deflategate and wow! You can’t open a sports page, read news online, or listen to broadcast media without deflategate being a dominant story. Adding “gate” certainly didn’t take any air of the story.

In deflating my mind a bit by releasing a few of the thoughts trying to pressure their way out, it has occurred to me that most of the players in the NFL and a significant number of the readers and viewers of deflategate stories were not even born when Watergate occurred and media personnel began labeling stories with “gate.” So, perhaps the term does seem original to them rather than timeworn. They might not even know the source of “gate.” In that case, using “gate” might be considered as creative. But, without knowing the source, how could “gate” have any meaning?

At this point, it occurs to me that I have opened a gate I should have left closed. After all, what better way to tag a story about air leaked from a football than calling it deflategate? I certainly don’t have a better word.

How deflating is that?

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For What It’s Worth

Unusual “turn” of events

Normally, a turn-signal arm extending from the steering column of a car is used only to signal the direction a driver is planning to turn. But for an Illinois man a metal turn-signal arm signaled the answer to a mystery in his life for the last 16 years—why his left arm would set off a metal detector.

In 1963, some 51-plus years ago, the man was involved in a serious automobile accident. He lost control of his car on a slick highway and collided head-on with a semi. His car was heavily damaged, and he was hospitalized with broken ribs and multiple other injuries. Surgery was required, but he healed and went on with his life.

Then, one day 35 years later as he was being scanned with a hand scanner at the courthouse, the scanner went off when it passed over his left arm. This was especially perplexing because he had on a short sleeve shirt and the scanner was passing over skin and apparently nothing that could be hiding metal. He went to doctors and was told they could find nothing and supposed that he might have some metal fragments left from the surgery on his arm after the wreck.

Thinking the mystery was solved on why his arm would set off a scanner, he went on with his life for the next 16 years. Recently, though, as he was carrying a concrete block in his left hand, his arm began to hurt and became quite swollen. He went to a doctor, who removed a 7-inch long metal rod from the man’s arm.

The rod resembled a turn-signal arm, so the man went back to pictures he had of his wreck in 1963 and discovered that the signal arm on his car was missing. No longer. Apparently, the signal arm had become embedded in the man’s left forearm and was not discovered at the time of his treatment after the wreck or in the 51-plus years since. At least it didn’t until several days ago when it caused serious pain and swelling in his arm.

I was intrigued by this story and a number of thoughts ran through my mind. In my reflection, I was reminded that sometimes events or actions in our lives bring pain from which we recover and go on with life, thinking the event or action would have no direct future consequences. Then, unexpectedly, years later, we suffer pain that had its root cause in some painful event or action a long time ago.

This can happen to us physically and spiritually. In the midst of a time of spiritual pain, we may commit a sin that remains unseen or unacknowledged for years until suddenly its consequences strike years later, and we experience their pain. Unfortunately, what happens to us spiritually is not the result of an accident, as was the steel rod embedded in the man’s arm. Instead, our faith failures usually are the causes of embedded sin and the pain it brings.

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