Tuesday, October 22, 2013

What To Do When Stuck on an Elevator?

There is a first time for everything. I had never gotten stuck on an elevator, mostly because I avoid them as much as possible. Haunted by an old childhood memory I honestly would rather take the stairs. And so it was, on one of those rare occasions recently where I chose elevator over steps, that I found myself stuck between the second and third floors. I wanted to panic but as I was not alone I had to remain calm. The other prisoner…I mean…person occupied herself by reading on her tablet, not really ignoring me but not open to friendly conversation. Her preoccupation left me wondering, what is the proper etiquette when stuck on an elevator?

Having experienced this for the first time, I must say it was different from what I had seen on old movies. Without things like tablets and smart phones (my phone could not get a signal) those fictional characters had no choice but to talk with each other while waiting for a rescue. If they entered as strangers, they exited as old friends: experts on each other’s history. If not focused on talking they spent their time trying to escape, one of them climbing out of the hatch which was always found in the elevator roof. The elevator I was in had no such escape route; at least none that I could see beyond the decorative lighting.

Having noticed pet hair on my fellow passenger’s coat, I wanted to know if she owned a pet. Was it dog or cat hair I wondered, guessing small dog perhaps one which frequented her couch. I would have asked but it seemed rude to interrupt her reading. And even as my curiosity remained unsatisfied, I have to admit just a bit of relief in not having to worry about holding my end of a conversation. My companion’s reading gave me the opportunity to relax in the company of my own thoughts.

Eventually we would be rescued from what very well might be my last elevator ride. Forty-five minutes of waiting while sitting somewhat silently on the floor is not that bad as long as you don’t think about how many shoes might have come and gone. Still there seems like there should be some rules as far as appropriate behavior in such situations. By default, shouldn’t being stuck on an elevator elicit lively conversation about family or perhaps about other adventures where things did not go as planned?

That I might know in the future, what is the proper response when stuck on an elevator with a person who is reading? What would you do? Would you attempt conversation or would you enjoy a moment of quiet relaxation?

Monday, October 14, 2013

A Day on the Rails

Where can you find America’s oldest railroad operating under its original charter? Where can you eat a meal served in a bindle? What is a bindle?

As a student in elementary school I never really enjoyed those “what did you do over the summer” essays. Somehow it always seemed like everyone else had enjoyed a more interesting summer than had I. So as a father I find myself trying to plan vacations that are about experiences, looking for things that will make my children say “wow” at the end of each day as we return to our hotel. Last year’s vacation was all about fun with a trip to Orlando, Florida. This year’s vacation was about history.

We started our trip with a return to one of our favorite tourist locations, The Strasburg Rail Road in Pennsylvania’s Lancaster County. Located on PA route 74, about two hours drive from Philadelphia, the Strasburg Rail Road offers the opportunity to relax and enjoy a ride through the country on an assortment of vintage rail cars. Pulled by old steam engines, these cars travel along a part of a rail line that opened in 1832. The original purpose of the railroad, which still operates under its original charter, was to link the town of Strasburg with the Philadelphia and Columbia railroad which bypassed Strasburg threatening the town’s viability.

On our previous trip we rode in one of the railroad’s coach cars, enjoying the scenery passing by outside our window. This time we chose to ride in one of the dining cars where we were served a hobo lunch wrapped in a red bindle: the bag made with a bandana on a stick associated with the hobo culture. We each chose from the assortment of available sandwiches but I would have been fine with a very large bowl of the baked beans served as part of the meal. The beans made the extra onboard cost of the food worth paying. The only difficulty was in not letting the food distract from enjoying the view of the Lancaster countryside.

The train run is about 45 minutes round trip, worth the money as an opportunity for great family time. If you want you can disembark at Groff’s Grove recreation area located at the mid-way point of the trip. Add in a number of other attractions for kids, along with the gift shops and ice cream and you have the makings of a great diversion. For a little extra you can visit their workshop where volunteers repair and restore vintage train cars. And twice a year Thomas the Tank Engine stops by to visit with children. Combine your visit with a trip to the Pennsylvania Train Museum, located just across the street and you have a dream afternoon for anyone who loves the rails. (I’ll talk about the museum in another post.)

Monday, October 07, 2013

Did You Really Forgive?

As Christians we are called to forgive those who wrong us. But if we forgive only because we are called to do so are we really forgiving others? I've been pondering this question ever since another believer made me their verbal punching bag.

To be honest I am still not sure what I could have done different. Somehow my actions lead to a tirade during which I was treated as if I were something less than human. The person would later apologize to some of the others who were involved however I am yet to hear or receive even a civil hello. Still I know I am supposed to forgive. After all it is the Christian thing to do. And yet it was quite a struggle, as I really did not want to let this person off the hook.

How many times have I told others they had to forgive? I have pointed to verses in the Bible and used clever sayings like the one about anger being like drinking arsenic. Many a time I have lectured others about extending the same mercy we have received for ourselves. Then when it came time for me to walk the walk I found it difficult to back up my own talk. Finally I said a prayer in which I acknowledged the call to forgive and pledged to do so. However even after earnestly dropping to my knees, something still did not feel as it should.

It was as if God was asking for more. He would not allow me to settle for just forgiving the person. My mental acquiescence to His call did not get the job done. Good enough was not good enough; I had to go the extra mile. What was that extra mile? I had to make the decision to love the other person. Only then would I be free to really forgive.

I had to make the decision to be like my Heavenly Father. No one commands God to forgive. He does so by choice because He loves us. Likewise I think He wants us to forgive, not because we are told to do so but because we love those whom He loves.