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Monday, December 31, 2012

Should I say something?

It’s one of my favorite shows, although I’ll be the first to admit that it has a certain air of offensiveness to it.  The TV show sets up scenarios where people are presented with typically ethical dilemmas.  Perhaps someone is misbehaving in public.  Maybe a parent is badgering a teen-age daughter to get Botox.  Perhaps restaurant diners are harassing someone who’s brought in a service dog.  The guy in the gift shop broke something when the manager was in the back room and is trying to lie about it so he won’t have to pay for it.  And then the TV cameras watch to see what the unsuspecting public will do.  Will they speak up for what’s good and right?  Will they take a stand for the oppressed?
I’m not sure why I like this TV show that’s titled What Would You Do?  It’s really not much different than that 60’s & 70’s era show called Candid Camera.  It has some similarities to the laggard of comedienne Betty White’s Off Their Rockers.  Maybe the attraction for me is the fact that I personally tend to think that there is a right and wrong way about everything.  I don’t typically accept that truth is relative or that it can be left to each of our personal perceptions or interpretations.  You see, I tend to take truth as being something that’s absolute – meaning it’s black-and-white-and-never-gray.
But I have to confess that often I find myself in life’s situations where it seems there’s a dilemma.  I’d like to say that I’m smart enough and coy enough to always know what the right thing is in those dilemmas.  I’d like to say that.  I just can’t. 
Recently I was seated in a window seat in the first class section of an American Airlines flight from Detroit to Dallas.  The gentleman in the aisle seat next to me quickly established himself in my mind as a rebel.  And that’s putting it kindly.  For you see, my thoughts of him weren’t so kind.  The flight attendants made the announcements that all electronic devices were to be firmly switched into the OFF position until after take-off.  They walked through the aisle exhorting lax passengers to switch of their electronic devices and put them away. 
My fellow passenger in the neighboring seat perhaps didn’t think those rules were important enough to follow.  Or perhaps he thought of himself as the one grand exception amongst the couple hundred of us seated on the plane.  Whatever his motives, he did NOT switch of his electronic devices.  He flipped his notebook shut when the flight attendant walked by, stuffing it into the seat pocket in front of him without turning if off.  After she was seated, he proceeded to put on his head phones and power up the music on his iPhone.  When she walked by again for something, he flipped it over and pretended to be asleep with the headphones on.  Needless to say, the flight took off with my neighbor’s electronic devices fully powered – and at least one of them operating for his personal entertainment. 
I’d like to say that this is the first time I’ve ever witnessed such a thing.  Sadly, I travel a lot.  And I’ve seen it a lot.  The truth is that I myself don’t know how important a rule it is that all electronic devices be powered down and properly stowed before a plane takes-off.  I mean, is it a safety issue?  Could the plane crash because of it?  Or is it just annoying interference with the pilots’ radio communications with the tower?  I wanted to find a serious flight attendant during the flight and discreetly ask her what a passenger should do when we observe such a rebel endangering the lives of everyone on board.  But I couldn’t get out of my seat without asking for his cooperation!
About midway through this same flight, the lady in front of me violently reclined her seat in a split second.  The collision with my tray table caused my drink to spill, me to drop my magazine, and the knee of my crossed leg to be crushed in the vice-like grip of her seat pressing against my body!

So you might get the impression that I fly a lot and that I find a lot of things that offend me when I travel.  That would be true, but it’s really not the point of today’s blog.  The point is that everywhere we go, we find people doing things that are at the least – inappropriate.  They can be offensive.  And in the worst of cases, they can be harmful.  And it puts us in a dilemma.  Always.
It might be the guy who cuts into the line at the movies or amusement park.  Or maybe it’s the person with 37 items in the express lane at the grocery store (that only allows 20 items).  Perhaps it’s the neighbor who doesn’t take care of their lawn.  Or the teen-agers who cut through your lawn.  Possibly it’s the people who leave shopping carts strewn all over the parking lot.  Maybe the telemarketers who call during dinner time, or the solicitors who come to the door at our homes.  The point is that everywhere we go, we find people doing things that are at the least – awkward. 
We don’t approve.  But we aren’t sure what to say … or when to say it.  Is it our place?  What about that “judge not” business?  Is it sticking our noses into other people’s business?  Or is it sticking up for ourselves?  Or … just maybe … is it taking a stand for someone else, who might not be in a position to take a stand for ourselves?
As we go into this New Year, I think it’s a really good time to get serious about asking that age-old question, “What would Jesus do?”  Let’s look at the dilemmas that we find ourselves in, and let’s resolve to overcome them.  Said differently, let’s resolve to conquer our dilemmas.  Let’s step out of our comfort zones, and walk boldly into the cause for what’s good and right.  Let’s resolve to stand against whatever is wrong and offensive.
In short, let’s resolve be the change that we’d all like to see in this world.  And let us have the wisdom to see the opportunities to do so whenever – and wherever they happen to present themselves.

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