An Encouraging Word — Aggravations, not problems

Father J. Ronald Knott

Father J. Ronald Knott

Have no anxiety at all! Philippians 4:6

Airports, in a certain sense, are sacred places. They help reveal yourself to yourself. In airports, you are forced to confront your demons. Your worst side eventually comes out if you are forced to stay in them long enough. Airports can be places where you experience your very own “temptation in the desert.”

Last June, I flew up to the Diocese of Kamloops, British Columbia, in western Canada to lead yet another of my many priest retreats. The retreat actually went well — even better than I expected — but the trips up and back were hellish.

All six of the airplanes I took to get there and back were delayed for one reason or another causing me to be re-routed to cities that I never expected to see. My luggage was lost for the first two days which meant that I had to make an unplanned stop at a Wal-mart to clothe myself temporarily and to smell human.

I thought the nightmarish flights up were behind me when I started home, but no! Instead of flying from Kamloops, to Calgary, to Denver, to Louisville, I was diverted to Chicago and was held prisoner of the airport for ten hours as delay after delay was texted to me from United Airlines — fifteen in all that day.

Just when I was resigned to spend the rest of my life stretched out on a filthy carpet, I boarded a plane that got me home at 4:30 a.m. the next day, a mere 23 ½ hours after I headed for home after standing on my feet all week, talking.

To prevent myself from screaming through the terminal, I decided to relieve the stress by trying to elicit sympathy from total strangers. I looked for some willing partners to commiserate in some “ain’t it awful” chit chat. I scared an elderly couple when I cozied up to them to unburden my heart, so I moved on to a Chinese woman who didn’t have the foggiest idea what I was saying in English. Having just flown from China, she was worse off than I was anyway.

Finally, I found a young Baptist minister and his wife, only to learn that I had performed her parents wedding forty years ago. “Oh, you are that hippie priest my mother has talked about all my life. Let’s take a photo and send her a text!”

In my conversation with them, it occurred to me that all this “suffering” we were going through was not really a problem, but merely an aggravation. I said to them,

“People with cancer have a problem. Parents with sick children have a problem. Children caring for elderly parents with dementia have a problem. The immigrants who are supporting families doing menial jobs cleaning the restrooms and working in the fast food restaurants of this airport have problems. What we are experiencing here are merely aggravations.”

Airports can help you put things in perspective.

To read more from Father Knott, visit his new blog:

Father J. Ronald Knott

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