During the past few weeks, conflicts associated with reclining airplane seats have forced three flights to land prematurely. Many have speculated that what these conflicts have in common relates to the ongoing initiatives of the airline industry to maximize profits at the expense of passenger comfort. Under this interpretation, long-standing airline amenities, such as tray tables and reclining seats, have collided with a customer base that is pushing back against the increasing discomfort of airline travel.
There is no doubt that the airlines have reduced passenger space during a time that coincides with larger people size. Airline travel, however, has never been an individual process. It has always been a lesson in community. Airline passengers often sit next to people whom they do not know; coach seats have never been overly spacious; people have to wait to share tiny restroom facilities that are few in number; and all must wait patiently for those seated ahead of them to deplane. Airline travel has always been an exercise in being comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Schools are places where there are myriad opportunities for young people to discover the many gifts associated with living in community. Challenging young people to take healthy risks is all about embracing the opportunity for growth and revelation that comes from being uncomfortable. While many schools embrace such opportunities for teaching and learning, Episcopal schools broaden this commitment through a Biblical perspective and recognition of Jesus’s command to love one another in community.
Jesus challenged his disciples to see God’s grace and love in the uncomfortable moments in life. Whether it was highlighting the love shown by the Samaritan on the road to Jericho, breaking bread with tax collectors, or the cleansing of the lepers, Jesus’s ministry is a command to live in community with one another, especially when that call challenges us to grow through moments of discomfort or even confusion. Episcopal schools are in a distinctive position to help young people discover that it is through these moments of discomfort that there exist opportunities for tremendous growth and revelation of God’s manifestation in the communities in which we live, move, and have our being. This, I might add, also holds true for the communities we encounter when we travel on airplanes!
William W. Taylor is President of St. George’s Independent School in Germantown, Tennessee. Bill can be reached at email@example.com.