"I have a niece graduating from an aviation management program, so I stopped here to see what kind of pilot gifts you might have," I say to the shop clerk at the small regional airport near where I live.
Tom (I learn his name later) is seated at a desktop computer behind one merchandise counter. He stands up, rubs his eyes, and says, "Hello! Thank you for saving me from some tedious paperwork. I haven't looked up from the screen for a while."
"You're welcome," I respond, "but I don't want to disturb you. Just point me toward the pilot gifts." By now Tom has come around the counter and is leading me to a display section featuring many gift items, such as travel mugs with "AVGasOnly" wording, a bottle opener with pilot's alcohol rules on the back, airplane-shaped cookie cutters, balsa airplane kits, beverage coasters that look like flight instrument dials, key chains, and many more. Tom tells me about each item and I select several that I think my niece would like. We take everything back to the counter and he searches for a folded map of Midwest regional airports. He says, "We use these for only a few months until they're updated, and I just discard any remaining old ones, so would you like this to use as wrapping paper?"
What a great idea, and I tell him that. We chat more. I learn that he's a pilot and a few times annually he flies considerable distances in order to re-certify pilots. He'll be going to Alaska soon. I learn that he teaches the leadership course in the aviation management program at a local university. And I learn that we have a mutual priest friend with whom he'll be having dinner in the coming week. I share that I'm a Catholic nun and I that also minister at a university.
As he enters my purchases in the computerized cash register, I notice a "Pilots for Christ" postcard on the counter. Tom tells me that he belongs to that and is also very active in the Right-to-Life movement. "I'm conservative — v-e-r-y conservative. When it comes to abortion, I can't tell you how much I'm against that. I volunteer a lot with one of the local support groups."
I nod and comment, "And all those millions of aborted babies aren't now sitting in our college classrooms, so is it any wonder that university enrollment has been negatively impacted?"
Tom wisely concurs. "You know how I describe it? Think about how many Nobel prizes and remarkable ideas have been lost to the world because those 58 million babies have been murdered since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. We're all diminished. We could have been high-flying."
[Nancy Linenkugel is a Sylvania Franciscan sister and chair of the department of Health Services Administration at Xavier University, Cincinnati.]
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