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10.04.2012

So There I was... In the hands of TSA

So There I was ...

At Midway, coming home from a great ministry gig.  I had been in the land of my mother's people, and it had been a time of deep personal connection as well as good work. I was heading home happy.

I prefer the lesser of the two Chicago airfields. I usually get in and out quickly and can take back streets to my brother's house. It was a Sunday morning and everything was light and smooth. The rental car and the big bag had checked in easy and I was early going through TSA.

Because of the emotional tethers of the week I had more family heirlooms on my person than I would normally carry. In my little shoulder bag I had my Grandfather Hubbell's preaching Bible. It is seven decades old now, and the onionskin pages are loose to their binding, But the worn leather feels like unction in my hands.  I wrap it loosely in fabric to travel, never let it out of my sight and it goes out rarely and only for good reasons. I also had my Grandmother Hubbell's diamond lavalier. It was the only diamond the woman ever owned and it is tiny, and the setting is fragile. I had worn one and carried the other on a visit to their graves and to ground me while preaching.

Just for balance I had My grandmother Senger's silver and mother-of-pearl cross that she was given on her honeymoon in 1905 - I usually wear it, but not when going through TSA. She was a Chicagoan for much of her life.

To add to the breakables there was a brand new coffee cup that I had found while God was telling me a joke during my stay. And there was a antique Japanese fan that delighted me.

Not being a dummy, the mother of pearl pocketknife that was my father's last gift to me was in the big bag with my liquids.

I was personally metal free and I expected to breeze through the checkpoint. I am an expert at hopping in and out of my cowboy boots.

I carefully positioned my little bag on the conveyor, de-shoed, and made the "I surrender" gesture for the back-scatter device.  I came through and reached for my boots and bag. And noticed the confab at the X-Ray screen.  Screener called in a second. They conferred and then looked me over - I smiled a cheerful smile.  And then the man with the blue gloves picked up my bag and waved me over to the special look-see table.

The gent was an older black man who central casting could have sent to double for Morgan Freeman. He was wearing the TSA regulation frowny face. Wordlessly, He started to go through the bag. I had the regulation case of sudden nerves and babbled.

"So I can't imagine what looks hinkey in there. I'm a seasoned traveler. Put all the metals and liquids in the checked bag. I know I'm not allowed to help with this, but if you could tell me what you were looking with maybe I can give you a clue..."

He pulls out the make-up bag and opens it with a bit of disdain. Seeming to say "I don't really like pawing through ladies personal things."  He looks at me. He acts like he thinks we are wasting our time. He finds some bobby pins - he sighs. "Probably these pins here ..."  he says.

Then his eyebrows go up.  And he gives me a look. And with two pincher fingers he lifts out the knife. Daddy's knife. The one I was sure was in the big bag.

"Oh, rats! - that's not supposed to be in there..."
"No, ma'am, it's not..."
"Crud, that's precious to me. That is the last thing that my late daddy gave to me. - Aw, man, what are my options here?"
"You surrender the knife and go on.  Or you have me put the knife back in the bag and I walk you back to the airline and the bag gets checked."
"Can I take some things out and carry them in my in hands?"
"Nope - the bag is mine, or the knife is mine. You watch me carry it out, but it doesn't go back in your hands."
"This is scary!  Your'e asking me to give up the precious thing or risk a bunch of other precious fragile things to the handlers. I don't think I have the courage to check that bag." I was thinking about the destruction of the preaching Bible, and I was about to let the knife go. Grandparents before parents. My heart was pounding. I bet my eyes were a little wild.

And then Mr TSA lowers his voice, leans closer, looks me in the eye and says in a sudden baritone profundo -

"Daughter, the opposite of fear is not Courage. It is Trust. How much Trust do you have today?" And the whole area got kinda fuzzy in my peripheral vision, and I froze as those words echoed in my soul.

The opposite of fear is not courage - it is trust.

I say "That's not a regulation TSA bulletin is it?"

He smiles at me.

"Trust" I say, "I'll go with Trust."

"Good Choice" and he put my knife back carefully in my makeup bag and walked me back to the airline, and he got to go to the front of that line and gave the bag to the agent, who checked it in.


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Comments:
Beautifully written. Hoping your precious things made it home safely with you.
 
Everything arrive in perfect condition. Thanks for stopping in, Bill
 
Gorgeous. I have missed these.
 
I needed to read that line about the opposite of fear today. Thank you. Made me all teary.
 
Yep.
 
Predictably I liked the "sudden baritone profundo" part. People may assert their humanity in most conditions of life, but I often forget that I can.
 
Thank you Peggy. I needed to hear that and it calmed my heart.
 
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