24. Today I will drive with tolerance and patience.
25. Today I will constructively channel my anger, frustration, or jealousy
into healthy, physical activities (i.e. doing sit-ups, picking up trash, taking
a walk, etc.).
26. Today, I will take time to appreciate the people who provide me with
challenges in my life, especially those who make me angry or frustrated.
-- from A Season for Nonviolence -- 64 Ways in 64 Days: Daily
Commitments to Live By
The fifth annual Season for Nonviolence officially begins on January 30, but I
needed a quick refresher course in some of the principles before telling a tale
about my recent season of love encounters with homeland security.
For those of you who didn't know that a Season for Nonviolence existed, these
are the basics: On January 30, 1998, the first annual Season for Nonviolence
was kicked off with an opening ceremony at the United Nations. From that day --
the fiftieth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi's assassination, through April 4 --
the thirtieth anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s murder, it was
observed in 115 US cities and 10 countries around the world.
The Association for Global New Thought developed the idea as "a 64-day
educational, media, and grassroots campaign dedicated to demonstrating that
nonviolence is a powerful way to heal, transform, and empower our lives and our
communities." This campaign has grown steadily throughout the past five years,
and more information can be found at www.agnt.org. Now back to our originally
I've flown four times since September 11. I've twice been pulled out of line
to have my carry-on luggage and my person searched more closely. Other than
wondering what it was about me that looked particularly suspicious, it was no
big deal or inconvenience, and the context was certainly understood.
It was a bit more annoying, however, when I went to T.F. Green to pick up my
parents just before Christmas. Once inside, I was repeatedly approached outside
the gate area and told that I had to wait for passengers on the lower level.
This despite repeated explanations that I was meeting my 79-year-old mother --
who'd just had double knee-replacement surgery and might need assistance on the
elevator. A compromise was reached in which I was allowed to wait in the
restaurant, where I could see out to the gate area while remaining out of range
of the security forces.
I then collected my parents, helped my mother down the elevator, and went to
get the car while they retrieved their luggage and waited for me to pull up out
front. My mother, despite having a special picture card explaining her new
metal and plastic knees, had also been pulled out and searched. No one was even
interested in looking at the card. Apparently, my suspicious looks are
On the way out of the airport, I approached three police officers standing
just outside the door. I explained the situation with my mom and asked if it
was all right to pull up along the curb to pick up my parents. I was assured it
would be fine and one officer indicated where to pull in. I then described my
mother and her wooden cane, and asked the officers to keep an eye out for her.
After getting the car out of the parking lot, I drove around to the designated
area and pulled in. Within a minute or two, one of the officers was at my door.
I rolled down the window and smiled.
"You can't park here, lady."
"Um, remember me? I just talked with you five minutes ago about my mother with
the cane? I'm just waiting here for her and my father. They should be out in a
"You can't park here. You'll have to keep circling until they come to the
And so I circled. And circled. And circled. After the sixth or seventh loop
with no parents in sight, I became concerned that perhaps something was wrong.
Maybe they needed help with their luggage. Maybe they were waiting inside
looking for my red car, not knowing I'd borrowed my daughter's black one. I
pulled into the designated area once again, got out, and waked to the curb
beside the three officers to peer in through the glass doors of the airport.
One of the officers approached the car and yelled, "Does anyone know who this
car belongs to?" This began to trigger the very strange sensation of being
suspicious-looking and invisible at the same time. "It's my car," I offered.
"You can't park here, lady. You'll have to move it."
"I know. I'm just concerned that something's wrong with my parents. I'm the
woman picking up elderly parents, a mother with recent knee surgery. I'm
worried they may need help or are looking for me in a different car. They
should have gotten their bags by now. Can I just look inside the doors to see
if they're standing there?"
"You may not leave your vehicle." I took a deep breath.
"But that won't help my concern that they may need assistance. What do you
suggest I do?"
"Go park in the short-term parking and go in to see."
"I've just come from the short-term parking. My parents have arrived and were
waiting for their luggage. They've been traveling since early this morning and
my mother is disabled. Would it be possible for one of you to just look inside
the door to see if you can see them and tell them I'm out here?"
"No, we can't do that."
Okay, so here's where I lost it. Here's where it would have really helped to
have a daily reminder of my commitment to nonviolence. That way I could have
hit the pavement and done a few sit-ups, or looked for some trash to pick up,
or taken a brisk walk around my vehicle. But no. Instead, I said, "It takes
three of you to do what you're doing here?" Now, I still had my concern about
my parents, but judging from the instant chill in the air, the possibility of
getting service from these public servants was clearly closed.
"What will happen if I walk inside myself?" I asked.
"We'll have your car towed," one of the officers answered.
"I'll have to take that chance," I replied, and turned around to the glass
doors. With one step, the automatic doors opened and there were my parents. I
grabbed the bag from my mother's hand, walked with them, past the officers, to
the car and loaded my parents and their bags inside. Once I climbed into the
driver's seat, there was a knock on the window.
"You'll have to wait here, ma'am," one of the officers informed me.
"For what purpose?" I asked.
"I'm not sure if the other officer just wants to talk to you or give you a
ticket. He asked me to tell you to wait here." Staring in disbelief at He Who
Serves and Protects and trying to breathe away the mounting anger, I believe I
saw a look of either compassion or regret in his eyes. From the back seat, my
father asked, "Would it help to show you my VFW lifetime membership card?"
"You know," said the man at the window, "if you had just asked nicely . . .
"I'm just going to roll up my window now before I say anything else and wait.
Happy holidays." I breathed.
And so we waited, first for 10 minutes until the officer returned, then for
another 10 or 15 while he wrote up the $50 ticket. We waited, two
suspicious-looking travelers and an 84-year-old lifetime member of the VFW, in
the same spot where moments before I wasn't permitted to wait. I felt terrible
that my combination of concern and frustration contributed to my parents' trip
being elongated and that our holiday visit had started out that way.
When enough miles and time had passed between us and the unfortunate incident,
when we'd had a cup of hot tea and my mom had iced her weary new knees, we were
able to laugh about the absurdity of it all, and the realization that our visit
had nowhere to go but up from there, and it did.
Today, I will take time to appreciate the people who provide me with
challenges in my life, especially those who make me angry or frustrated. So
here's to you, Officers Friendly of the Warwick police, for helping me practice
what I preach.
Issue Date: January 11 - 17, 2002