Friday, February 24, 2012

The Princess and the Helicopter Pilot

"Living Every Girl's Dream,
She Married a Helicopter Pilot!"

As a helicopter pilot, I chuckled when I first saw the caption above. In keeping with the Cinderella quality of the Royal Wedding, it should have read "She Married a Prince". Except, I know from personal experience that being a helicopter pilot makes one more princely than any prince.

In the photo, the girl has married a prince who also happens to be a helicopter pilot. In a strange twist of fate, I happen to be a helicopter pilot who married a princess.      

I was not always a helicopter pilot.  I was first a farm boy, then a machinist, then a student, and finally an artilleryman and flight student before pinning on the wings that entitle me to call myself a helicopter pilot.  It took a very nasty war in a semi-exotic place to teach me what being a helicopter pilot really meant.

My wife, on the other hand, has always been a princess. She was a princess when we met, a princess during the time we dated and a princess when we married, long before I ever considered being a helicopter pilot. She remains a princess to this day, as do our two daughters.  It is in part because my wife is a princess that I was able to become a helicopter pilot and all of the other things I have become through the years. 

I have a thing for princesses. Princesses are special.   Princesses are warm and caring.  Princesses are strong and determined. Princesses are fiercely loyal.  Princesses speak with special authority.  And, because of who they are, princesses are worthy of special respect and deference.  

Being married to a princess, demonstrating the special loyalty, care and respect to which a princess is entitled is a high calling.  Lived out, such a calling has been shown able to transform many a lowly commoner, even a helicopter pilot into a prince.  

Everyone knows that princes and princesses are to live happily ever after. And to live happily ever after as a prince is almost as good or maybe even better than to be a helicopter pilot.

What are you doing to live happily ever after?


Friday, February 17, 2012

Have a "Nice" Day!

Some years ago, a TV commercial for a national motel chain featured a blonde receptionist in a hot pink sweater and flirty eyelashes brightly telling a customer "I'm sorry. We have no record of your reservation and no vacancies. Have a nice day!"

"Have a nice day!"

"Have a wonderful day!?

At Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom, the wish is "Have a magical day!"

How many times have you been wished "a nice day" or "a wonderful day" or "a magical day"?

Sometimes, the wish is so far from the current reality as to be meaningless.  Sometimes, like the unfortunate traveler before the blonde desk clerk, our days are less than magical, less than nice, and less than wonderful.  In such cases, the wish to have a nice or wonderful or magical day is at best an ironic and at worst an insensitive dismissal.

Suppose, rather than merely wishing that someone have a nice day, we did something to make that person's day nice?

Suppose, rather than merely wishing someone have a wonderful day, we did something to make that person's day wonderful?

Suppose, rather than merely wishing someone have a magical day, we did something to make that person's day magical?

Supposed we backed up our good wishes with actions to make them true?

Suppose, when we received these wishes we took it as a command to go out and make the day we having magical, wonderful, and nice?

Are you up to the challenge?

Whose day will you help make more wonderful, magical, and nice?

What actions will you take to have a wonderful day?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Your Valentine

This coming week people throughout our nation will celebrate Valentine's day by sending cards, giving gifts of candy and flowers, and indulging in romantic dinners and other events. In our modern celebration we forget that February 14 is the feast day of a saint, St. Valentine.

St. Valentine? Who was he anyway? How did his name get attached to our celebration?

Little definite is known about St. Valentine. Historians are hard pressed to agree who he was or even in which century he lived.  According to one Church legend, Valentine, or Valentinus, was Roman priest during the reign of the emperor Claudius Gothicus. He was arrested and imprisoned for marrying Christian couples at a time when aiding Christians was considered a crime. Claudius took a liking to this prisoner – until he tried to convert the Emperor – whereupon he was swiftly condemned to death. After beatings with clubs and stoning failed to kill him, Valentine was beheaded outside the Flaminian Gate and buried beside the Flaminian Way.  According to one legend, before his head was cut off, he healed the sight and hearing of his jailer's daughter. According to another, before being executed, he wrote notes of love and encouragement urging his congregation and friends to stand firm in the face of persecution and signing them "from your Valentine".

From those notes comes our custom of sending Valentines Cards on February 14, the traditional feast day of the saint.  Such is the stuff of legend.

Today, more than a celebration of sacrificial love and affection exhibited by the saint, Valentine's Day has become a celebration of romance and a product of intense advertising by the greeting card, chocolate, and florist industries. The price of roses is escalating.  Bottles of champagne are flying off the shelves.  Ads for "romantic getaways" at some resort or another fill the mailbox. Sentimental cards decorated in shades of red and pink are being mailed, and large red heart-shaped boxes of chocolates have assumed a prominent place in the local markets. 

Today, cards ask the recipient to "Be my Valentine" rather than offering to be theirs, the flowers, candy and romantic getaways seeking to secure rather than to express one's affection for and encouragement of another.  

This year, I plan to return Valentine's day to the spirit of St. Valentine.  This year, I plan to offer messages and acts of love and encouragement to those who are close to me.  This year, I plan be rather than to send a Valentine.

Will you join me? 

Will you be an encouraging spirit for someone?

Who will that someone be?   

Friday, February 3, 2012

Life in the Ordinary

"All that is gold does not glitter"
--J. R. R. Tolkien

As a parent, one learns that when a son or daughter says "It would be neat to do something" or "We really should try this or do that," it always pays to ask the question "Why?" Sometimes, it pays more to ask "Why on earth?"  And the answer is usually the same. Trying or doing something or this or that would be different. It would be interesting.  It would be exciting.  And, when dealing with teen-agers, sometimes it might get someone killed.  But sometimes it really would be a neat thing to do and you do it.

We humans crave experiences that are new and different, interesting and exciting.  We seek them out. We rejoice in doing them.  We feel deprived when for one reason or another we can do them no more. And there are some we would trade for nothing else in the world. And yet,when practiced repeatedly any experience too easily becomes routine.  Even the joy of piloting an aircraft turns into "hours of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror." And no sane aviator ever chooses to experience that terror.

We are creatures of paradox.  We crave the new, the different, and the exciting and yet find ourselves constrained to live the every-day, the commonplace, and the ordinary. We live our days in a dynamic tension between the two, doing the ordinary but ever hoping for something new.  

It can make us miserable.

Or, it can be a source of comfort and peace.

I have learned to find joy in the ordinary and peace in the predictable rhythms of every day life. To me, the ordinary is wonderfully new and different.  No two days or seasons or experiences or circumstances are ever alike

I take great pleasure in watching the sun come up every morning.  No two sunrises are alike.  The colors, while similar, are never arranged quite the same. And I rejoice in each sunrise as it is.

I take pleasure in the routine activities of my existence, in going through the familiar motions, in applying my knowledge, skills, and abilities to accomplish familiar tasks.  Yet the circumstances and the precise application of knowledge, skills, and abilities can vary widely.  And I treasure that too.

All that is gold does not glitter.  All that is new and different and exciting does not announce itself with fanfare and trumpets.  Sometimes, the gold is hidden beneath the dirt and must be mined or washed out.  Sometimes, the new, exciting, and different is buried in the ordinary and must be found to be appreciated.  There is infinite variation and novelty in the ordinary. The one who seeks will find it.

What will you do this week to appreciate your life in the ordinary?

What new thing will you find there?