ORIGINALLY WRITTEN PAUL PENNER
“I have nine uncles who work in the aircraft industry. Of those, only three will still have their jobs in 2002. And some of them have worked for Boeing for more than 20 years.”
That was the response I received from a 23-year-old woman who worked the counter in the corner shop at Wichita’s Continental Airport.
I was waiting for the flight that would bring Deborah home from a conference in Philadelphia. At the time, it seemed visiting with someone to pass the time was preferable to reading a depressing newspaper.
But not this time.
Sept. 11, 2001, is a date no one will forget, no matter how hard we try. One rarely forgets a day where it seemed the entire world was glued to the television, watching planes crash into and destroy the World Trade Center towers. The tragedy not only snuffed out thousands of lives, but destroyed jobs for thousands more.
Suddenly, such previously important concerns like global warming or saving the environment, and lesser concerns like whether one should trade the old 2000 model SUV, or whether Brittany Spears will actually wear clothing at her next concert, seemed a bit trivial.
The question is, can we make something good come from such a nightmare? I think we can if we see the challenge as an opportunity rather than an unpleasant obstacle.
One positive result may be to reaffirm one’s values.
Consider a recent comment from a farmer who lives in another county. After summarizing the current state of the world and a short evaluation of his own situation, he said, “There is nothing wrong with being poor; it’s just a little more inconvenient. But I would not give up my 13 grandchildren for all the money in the world if I had the opportunity to change places with a wealthier neighbor who has no grandchildren.”
Making something good from bad experiences may mean re-evaluating one’s priorities and changing direction. It may mean moving from a job that conflicts with one’s personal values to one that is more fulfilling.
Another acquaintance, after watching the horror of Sept. 11 unfold, decided it was time to change his employment. His job, although financially rewarding, did not fit well with his own values. He could not sacrifice his family’s spiritual and emotional well-being any longer.
I applaud his courageous decision to act on his convictions.
The problem is that making a significant change in lifestyle or employment, even if it is for the better, is a daunting and even horrifying prospect for most of us. Can the transition ever be easy?
Anything worth the effort rarely comes without a price attached. And sometimes the cost is very high.
In the movie “You’ve Got Mail,” Meg Ryan’s character decided to close down her book store and start a new life after being financially destroyed by a competitor in the business. The accountant toasted her boldness in facing an uncertain future. Only then did she realize what she had done-and was quite frightened by that prospect.
Not only was she out of a job, she had to let her employees go. Plus, she was the last in her family to have managed the family business and would be the one who would shut the doors for the last time.
Personally, I never get used to paying the price to keep the really good things in life.
Every time my daughter, Jessica, received the news of yet another impending round of surgery, I cringed with fear. I was not afraid of the surgery, nor was I questioning the competency of the medical team. But I understood the risks involved.
I remembered the time Jessica came close to death, only to go through a miraculous recovery. I did not want her to walk through that valley again. Nor did I want to be there to witness it again.
But paying a price to keep what is precious is a good thing. That which has been purchased with something of great value is cherished far more than something which was received without as much as a “thank you” in return.
Every time I receive a phone call from Virginia, a pleasant, cheery voice greets me with, “Hi, Dad!”
Every time I get that call, I am rewarded with the affirmation that the price was well worth it.
In time, the dust will settle, and life will return to whatever it is we call “normal.” And then we can look back and see the good that has come from unpleasant and often painful experiences.
That is my wish for all the people who lost loved ones on that fateful September day.