Apparently the guy in front of me in the security line at the airport knew the guy behind me. They talked through me, as if I wasn’t even there. And I didn’t even care.
“What’s new?” said the middle-aged man in front of me, his hair bleached blonde, skin tan and wrinkled a bit.
The man behind me responded promptly, “Same old, same old.” His hair was dark, clean cut, his presentation professional, business-like. “Money. Money. Money.” He paused a bit before adding “the recession hit me really hard.”
“I stepped out of the rat race four years ago,” exclaimed the blonde. “It’s kind of fun traveling around and all that.”
“On a golfing trip?” asked the business man.
“Ya, I’m going to Orlando for a tournament.” replied the blonde, smiling with ease.
The business man stated what might be an obvious downfall to the blonde man’s lifestyle. “The only problem with being a ‘professional golfer’ is that you have to pay for it all yourself.”
And with that, an airport official yelled to the crowd. Security line two only had an 8-minute wait, and ours was bound to be a 25-minute wait. The whole lot of us fled the scene, speed walking to line two.
I never did get to hear the end of that story, how the blonde man would respond to this questioning, these challenges about leaving the rat race and “paying for it all yourself.” I wasn’t engaging in that conversation other than to overhear, so I might’ve never learned why the blonde man left the rat race, or how he used to earn a living, or how he earns a living now, or anything else about his old life compared to his new life as a “professional golfer.” Speaking of, was he really a professional golfer? Or was he a “professional golfer?” And I never did get to delve deeper with the business man to determine exactly how the recession hit him hard, how he knew this blonde man in the first place, or what he’d do if he left the rat race. But those guys got me thinking.
An hour later, I boarded the plane.
As we ascended, I noted the ground blanketed in white snow. Squares, rectangles and L-shapes divided most of the land into some sort of box. It was, of course, a sight I’d seen before. But this time, I saw those boxes in a new light.
Perhaps we box ourselves in.
Perhaps we’ve divided up God’s land so perfectly, pristinely and professionally, we don’t even realize how boxed in our lives have become.
Could it be that we move from our boxed in home, to our boxed in car, to our boxed in workplace, to our boxed in cubicle, and then back to our boxed in home again? In our free time we go to boxed in churches, boxed in restaurants, boxed in coffee shops, boxed in museums, boxed in movie theaters and boxed in hotels. When we’re sick we go to boxed in hospitals, and when it’s time to learn we go to boxed in schools. And just about everything we do happens on some piece of square or rectangular boxed in piece of land, and we don’t even know we’re living that way until we see it from above.
Could I be exaggerating to make a point? Sure.
Of course, there are roads that wind, curve. They’re paved and they’re pretty, but they’re headed to a particular planned out destination. There are cul-de-sacs, cloverleaves, and turn-abouts, baseball diamonds, open-air football stadiums, and rough and rural areas that don’t have shape.
But really, how much of your life is spent in a box? How much of my life has been spent in a box?
Time passed. And before I knew it, I looked down and the blanket of white snow was gone. But the boxes remained. All I could see were boxes. Boxes everywhere. Big boxes, little boxes, boxes within boxes. And now, box-shaped pools.
So it’s true. This boxing in isn’t an isolated phenomenon.
I felt uncomfortable in my window seat as I tried to find the right time to take my camera out of the case and take a picture to remember this realization about our boxed in lives. Body language experts claim you exhibit insecurity when you rest your hand on your neck. Ya. My left hand was all over my neck, my right hand all over the camera as I brought it up just long enough to capture these boxes a little closer.
As I sat eating Chick-Fil-A, waiting for my connecting flight to Miami, I found myself uncomfortable, insecure again. There I sat in my sweatshirt, black jeans, white socks, and old black tennis shoes I haven’t worn for a couple years. A woman sat down next to me. Her outfit sparkled and it was classy and she was put together. I felt like a frump and knew on any other trip than this one to Haiti, I’d be dressed much more like her. And in that moment, I became painfully aware of how much I care about my appearance.
Ya. Appearances. My safe little box. I do care what I look like. And I want it to appear, to you, that I’m doing the right thing, making the right decision, behaving the way I should. I don’t want to appear as if I’m stepping out of my safe little box. If I suddenly disappear and appear outside of my safe little box, what will you say?
But you know what I had to realize? I am stepping out of my safe little box.
This sweatshirt and black jeans (they’re sparkled on the butt, by the way), and the white socks with the black tennis shoes? So horrible. It’s kind of geeky. And I’d never wear this anywhere important in real life.
But this is my real life. And it’s important, really important. And I’m still me. In fact, it’s possible this trip to Haiti might force me to be and become me more than I’ve ever been before.
The seat belts in the shuttle squeaked loudly on the way to the hotel. The woman in front of me grabbed her seatbelt and pulled it tight. I let mine squeak.
It was Saturday afternoon, but Miami traffic was painfully slow. The driver shared with us – there’d been a big accident. Two fatalities.
And I couldn’t help but think about the blonde golfer guy and the dark-haired professional. It hit home for me and all of us, really. If you were to die today, would you die in the box or out of the box? Do you find yourself trapped in the Americanized rat race of ought to, should, totally could? Or do you secretly long to jump out of the box, running wild and free after God’s unique dream for you?
As for me? I choose, in faith, to step out.
*This is part of a month-long series about my journey to Haiti. Click here to read all the posts in the series.