Saturday, January 30, 2010

Ramblings on a Recent Business Trip

Several weeks ago, I went on a trip for my job. I attended a conference out of state. My family was unable to go with me. It was very demoralizing to me. The conference was wonderful, I was fortunate to go, and I learned so much. Nonetheless, being away from my family for 4 days made me sad. I felt out of sorts. Nothing was all that fun without them. The experience made me even more grateful than I had been before for my husband and children. When I got home I was incredibly thrilled to see them again, and I cherished a little more everything about them. When I think of the importance of family values, that’s what comes to mind—loving your family very dearly, enjoying their company, and not wanting to be apart from them.

This recent trip took place not long after the would-be “underwear bomber” incident. Air travel since 9/11 has been such a pain. I’m always worried I’m going to lose my driver’s license or something else of value as I scramble through security with frustrated TSA workers barking at us to hurry up, get out of the way. And I fret that I’ve inadvertently brought some prohibited item through security. On past trips, I’ve had new bottles of water and travel size bottles of hand sanitizer confiscated, which made traveling more of a health challenge. Our family also had an expensive jumbo size bottle of water-proof children’s sunscreen confiscated on another trip. And then once you get through security, you feel like cattle while in transit. They squish as many people as possible into a confined space. If the person in front of you opts to recline her seat or if your seatmate is large and/or has a lap child, you may feel particularly claustrophobic during the flight. These days the airlines often charge extra for checked luggage, so people fight with each other and the flight attendants to fit too much carry-on luggage into insufficient cabin storage. And then beverages are about all you get on some flights no matter how long they are. You may arrive famished if you didn’t think ahead to bring your own food. Through out all these hassles, people tend to not be on their best behavior. It is human nature to get grumpy and curt when uncomfortable and annoyed for prolonged periods. No wonder many of us prefer to drive to our destinations whenever possible!

When I was at my destination, there was a fairly big flat-screen TV with cable in my hotel room. Because we don’t watch much TV, don’t think very highly of most television programming, and are fairly frugal, we don’t have cable and our old bulky TV is probably now considered small to most people. So I was amazed by the size and clarity of the hotel TV I had. And it was like a moth to a light. It was very hard for me to turn the darned thing off. I had brought some reading to do in the evenings. I got hardly any of it done. But it wasn’t because there was terrific programming. There were a whole lot of channels, but it was essentially just a whole lot of crap in my humble opinion.

And of course, you waste time not just watching the subpar programming itself, but you waste so much more because the programming is then constantly interrupted by the barrage of commercials! One of the big drivers in our family’s decision to minimize our exposure to TV is the influence of commercials, over which you have no control unless you go to the added time and expense of using TiVo. (Don’t even get me started!) In the best of situations, commercials are just annoying and they try to sell you things you probably don’t need. But many commercials use sexualized or violent images or messages to make their pitch. Studies have been done on the impact of advertising on children. They are incredibly vulnerable to the messages in commercials. My husband and I just don’t like our kids exposed to such things.

Anyhow, the experience reinforced in my mind our family’s decision to minimize the amount of TV we watch. It is scary what a seductive media television is. If we Americans spent less time watching TV and were less influenced by the toxic programming and commercials, I think many of our society’s ills would be remedied or at least ameliorated.

James 4:14 (New American Standard Bible)

Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.

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