We were leaving the store when Chase caught up to me in the parking lot and exclaimed, “Mom you walked right by this one!” and handed me a penny. “Oh wow, I must really be tired” I explained. With his trademark smile Chase put his hand on my back and said, “It’s okay Mom, you probably have a lot on your mind.” Indeed I do I thought. If only my concerns for the rest of the day were as simple as his. In my defense I’d already found a dime earlier, so my penny receptors were probably shut down.
I came home with the eleven cents in my pocket and took a look at Chase’s homework assignment for the weekend. His global studies teacher had asked her students to talk with their parent’s about what they remembered when the 9/11 terrorist attacks occurred. My phone rang while I was thinking about this and before I knew it I was back to the multi-tasking that had worn me out earlier leaving me penny blind. The day didn’t end for me until very late and the next would start at the crack of dawn.
When Chase and I finally got a chance to sit down and talk about the 9/11 attacks I had a hard time remembering anything more than the fact that they happened. All I could pull from my database was that I was at home with him when I got a call from his Dad telling me to turn on the news. I sat down on the coffee table in front of our television set and turned on ABC just in time to see the second plane crash into the World Trade Center. Like every other American I watched stunned with disbelief. I don’t remember much from that point on and it took reading through the timeline of what happened on Wikipedia for me to bring everything back into focus.
This made me sad because it was a poignant reminder to me of the reality every American lives with. As a nation, a society, and a person living in the Information Age we face the possibility of being driven to distraction. The inability to focus is no longer a challenge faced only by a subset of people with ADD. Chronic distraction is the defining condition of our time. If there’s anything the American people maintain a religious allegiance to, it is a constant state of motion and an addiction to multi-tasking – a state of mind which leaves us constantly vulnerable. When we’re so busy pursuing every agenda we think will benefit our cause we’re bound to lose sight of what’s really important. Certainly that’s one of the lessons that the 9/11 attacks should reinforce with us, not only as a nation but individuals.
I call it failure by fragmentation. We see this in our government all the time and complain vehemently against it. The left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. While not everyone agrees, the 9/11 Commission clearly stated that the Clinton and Bush administrations share in the blame for ignoring warnings about the attacks and this failure was blamed on inter-agency communication breakdowns. A finding that must burn like salt in the wound for every family that has lost a loved one as a result of the attacks and counter-terrorism efforts since then. Mud in the face for everyone trying to dig out of the financial hole this country is in and a victory for terrorists who somehow manage to wage war with fewer resources than a super power.
It’s unbelievable really and as such we tend to disassociate from this thought because as one person you wonder what you can do to change it. The question of how you can live your life any differently seems silly in the face of such a giant and that’s exactly what the enemy wants us to believe. While sitting with Chase thinking about 9/11 then and 9/11 today that eleven cents on the counter prompted me to look at my own life. Is the only thing I wage war with on a daily basis my “To Do” list – or do I choose to do battle with more important things? Are my days driven by purpose or distractions disguised as important agendas? Do I start the day asking God to lead, guide, and direct or do I just wing it?
If the answers to these questions are no, no, no and yes, yes, yes – then I’m living a life no different than the leaders of our nation that I get angry with. When my own life is disjointed how can I expect to live in a country that functions any differently? I can’t. That’s the lesson I needed to be reminded of this week and I’m thankful for Chase who brought it to my mind with his penny find. I hope I can do better in the year ahead and that in some small way that contributes to the greater good. It’s a drop in the bucket I know but just like that penny it’s got to add some value.