Helicopter Undies

The young man sat across the table from me in obvious pain. Tears filled his eyes as he recounted one of the deepest losses of his life. Even though seven years had passed, he was still overcome with grief at the thought of losing something so dear to him. It was obvious that this poor fellow would forever carry the pain of losing something so dear, so personal. I’m not sure he will ever recover.

It’s not easy losing your helicopter undies.

The young man was my son, Christopher. Critter, as he’s known in our house, had a pair of undies with helicopters all over them. He wore those undies every chance he got. They were clearly his favorite. Then came that fateful day.

Critter was in kindergarten at Faith Academy in Imperial. As he was walking down the aisle of his class, he felt something in his pants leg. He shook his leg, only to discover, to his horror, his helicopter undies falling out of his pants. Not wanting to be embarrassed, he left the undies on the floor, hoping nobody would notice them. Then Samantha Culp (Critter’s friend who was a girl, not a girlfriend!), said, “Teacher Julie, somebody’s underwear is on the floor.” Julie asked the class if anybody was missing a pair of underwear. Critter said nothing. Julie put the underwear in the trash can and class resumed. Critter tried to retrieve the undies during recess but the students came back while he was looking into the can, so he left them there. By the time he got back to check the cans after school, the janitors had already emptied the trash. The helicopter undies were gone forever.

Critter is still bummed after all these years. He has fond memories of those undies. But when it came down to crunch time, the undies lost out to pride.

Pride is an odd commodity. It is okay to be proud of your accomplishments, until you start boasting about them. It is fine to take pride in your appearance, as long as it doesn’t turn into vanity or conceit. Coaches constantly tell players to be proud, but they don’t want players to read their own news clippings or publicity.

Left to its own devices, pride can be a dangerous thing and cost us far more than a pair of helicopter undies.
In his book, “Rebuilding Your Broken World,” Gordon MacDonald gives the following example of pride gone awry:

When the space shuttle Challenger lifted into the sky and blew up seventy-three seconds into its flight, the world was shocked. Most of us have seen the videotape of that terrible moment many times. And we can recreate the picture in our minds of a deep blue sky marked with twisted trails of smoke and large chunks of metal plummeting toward the ocean. And we know, as we recall the grim specter of the explosion, that among the falling pieces were the bodies of some of America’s finest men and women.

Most of us also know that the investigations into the cause of the tragedy pointed out some serious shortfalls in human judgment and materials management. The New York Times put it frankly: the ultimate cause of the space shuttle disaster was pride. A group of top managers failed to listen carefully to the warnings of those down the line who were concerned about the operational reliability of certain parts of the booster rocket under conditions of abnormal stress. The people in charge were confident that they knew best and that they should not change the launch schedules. They were wrong.

They were wrong, but what a huge price was paid for their pride. Why do we find it so hard to admit when we are wrong? Why will we risk the feelings and even the lives of others, just to show that we are right? Again, it all comes down to that simple word, pride.

“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.” (Proverbs 11:2,3 NIV)

“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18)

When Muhammad Ali was in his prime, as he was about to take off on an airplane flight, the stewardess reminded him to fasten his seat belt. He came back brashly, “Superman don’t need no seat belt.” The stewardess quickly came back, “Superman don’t need no airplane, either.” Ali fastened his belt.

Let’s fasten our belts and lay aside our pride. Our lives, and the lives of others, may be at stake.

Looking for more helicopter undies for Critter… Jerry

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