I love America. I do. I am so grateful that I call the United States my home. The “blessings" afforded to me are unparalleled anywhere else in the world. Freedom, prosperity, and opportunities abound. Please know that this isn’t a post about hating America, because I don’t, but sometimes I sure do hate the way a lot of Americans act.
At a time when the world is watching our country with a mix of amusement and disgust - thank you Donald Trump - I know there are whispers in the wind about the character of our country. We have produced such world-wide “icons” as Ariana Grande, Nikki Minaj, and Kanye West, who showcase to the nations who we are. At least that’s what the world perceives of us. And perception is everything.
Yesterday was a trying day for me as a traveler. I left Savannah around 2:30 (EST) on a flight to Houston, which was to connect to Las Vegas. I was supposed to arrive in Vegas around 7:00 PM (PST). After flying for 2 hours a storm settled in over Houston causing us to divert to a tiny runway in Lake Charles, Louisiana. When I say “tiny,” I mean a 4 gate, no TSA, closes at 5:00 PM kind of airport. We sat on the tarmac for about 2 1/2 hours waiting of the storm to clear. Once the airline decided that wasn’t going to happen, they grounded the flight and sent us into the airport where two sweet, unassuming girls tried desperately to help about 75 really angry people! There weren’t enough hotel rooms in the area to put us all up for the night, so they decided to BUS us to Houston, a 3+ hours drive. After waiting for the busses to drive (3 hour wait), we boarded the buses with all of our luggage and started the track to Houston. By now we had all missed our connecting flights, but we were told that a representative from the airline would be there to work out the details of our trips as well as to set us up with housing for the night. When we arrived at the airport, guess what: NO ONE. The terminal was a ghost town. After 2 hours in the plane, 3 hours in the airport, and 3 hours on a bus, I walked to the international terminal to find a representative (international flights often run in the middle of the night). The lady there was helpful, but she couldn’t put me up for the night because all of the area hotels were already full from the other grounded flights … so … at 2 AM I settled in for a 3 hour off-an-on sleep on the terminal floor. Instead of spending the one day I had off in Las Vegas to read and relax, I was going to spend it traveling and rebooking all of my reservations because they auto-cancelled when I didn’t arrive on time.
Don’t shed a tear - I didn’t - just hear me out on this: people were losing their minds over this! People were shouting at the girls in the little airport, cussing at each other, yelling their dissatisfaction into the air at no one, but for everyone to hear. You’d have thought that they were told they would never leave the airport again! That their life, as they knew it, was over! That they were going to have to pay triple to reach their final destination. For most people, their world ended right then and there … It was THAT bad.
I sat there half amused (people are FUNNY when they’re that angry and acting stupid) and half embarrassed. It was like watching a kindergarten teacher take all the toys away from a classroom. Was the entire ordeal frustrating? Sure it was. Was I inconvenienced? Absolutely. Did I enjoy it? Of course not.
But it was a storm, and every flight in and out of Houston was grounded … and we were in a tiny airplane! Seriously, who wants to fly into a purple-on-the-radar storm in a tiny, metal tube?!
Interestingly enough, when I went up to the international terminal there were entire groups of people laughing, taking pictures, and finding places on the floor to sleep for the night.
I know, I know, our experiences are different, our expectations are different, our cultures are different. I get it. I don’t know what their travel schedule was like or where they came from or how long they had been sitting there. I understand. But the environments and reactions were so vastly different it was stunning.
“Do everything without grumbling” kept coming to my mind. “Love is patient, love is kind” kept popping into my head.
Normally I may have jumped into the frustration, but I couldn’t stop thinking about riding a bus in India years ago, or riding a tap-tap in Haiti, or seeing 5 people crammed onto a motorbike in Nigeria. Hearing stories of a man named Mr. O. who took days worth of public transportation, often waiting hours to catch a ride with 20 other people crammed into a 15 passenger van in the stifling heat of Africa to attend a board meeting. And here were a bunch of whinny, entitled, wealthy Americans flying on an airplane, frustrated when the airline arranged 3 air-conditioned buses and to get them safely to Houston AND provided some pizza, all for free, when circumstances beyond their control (a nasty storm) changed their plans.
I wonder what the world thinks of us in those moments. I wonder what conclusions they are drawing about our character when they see the “haves” get so frustrated over not “having more.”
And speaking specifically to American Christians, when most of the world sees any American acting this way, they assume Christians act that way. The perception goes like this: American = Christian. If Americans act like selfish, entitled, crybabies, then Christians are selfish, entitled, crybabies.
So Christian, if you want to change America for the better, if you’re concerned about the character of our country, quit griping about who the next president is going to be or about how the “morally bankrupt” of the country need to find Jesus, and start changing your own character to be more like Christ. Start with some small character changes like this: the next time you’re in an airplane and you’re being rerouted, or sleeping on the hard floor of an airport … or your waitress doesn’t serve you fast enough … or your shipment doesn’t come on time … or your cell coverage doesn’t work … before you lose your mind, guard your heart.