By Ed Vasicek
I was minding my own business, loading a bag of ice melt into my trunk. All of a sudden I felt a hand on my shoulder and heard a voice I preferred not to hear.
“Ed, long time no see,” beamed Elmer, his gold tooth sparkling.
“Oh, hi, Elmer, how are you?” I asked, trying to muster sincerity. “I haven’t seen you for ages.”
“Well, I just got back from a trip out West,” Elmer explained, “to see my daughter and her family. Drove all the way. What a long ride!”
I sought to be upbeat: “But I am sure you had a good time; you must have enjoyed the leisurely trip.”
“Leisurely my foot!” Elmer complained, “I hate long rides, but I won’t get into those death-trap planes. I used to fly – I don’t have one of those phobias. But with all the plane crashes, no thanks.”
“Funny you should mention that. I was just reading this article today,” I replied as I unfolded the article from The Good News Network:
“‘2012 will go into the record books as the safest year ever for airline travelers worldwide. 3 billion passengers flew in 2012 on more than 93,000 commercial flights … yet not a single fatality was recorded in the United States in more than four years.’”
“Well, maybe it was a good year,” added Elmer, “but bad ones are waiting.”
I replied in exasperation, “Thousands and thousands of people were killed on the road during that same time. Driving is one of the most dangerous things you can do, not flying.”
Elmer changed the subject, “Well, I’m not going to argue with you. But I worry about my grandkids in school. All them school bus rides and them crazy gunmen out there with their machine guns. The most dangerous place for them kids right now is in school or on their way.”
“Now Elmer, you ought to be concerned about your grandkids. But you need to get perspective. All of us – including our kids – have always been in danger. School is one of the safest places for them. Actually, the two most dangerous places for them are in your car or near a swimming pool.”
“Ed, all that coffee has pickled your brain,” Elmer criticized. “You have the mind of a 4-year-old child, and he was glad to get rid of it! Nothing you said is true!”
“Well, let me dig up those clippings I have in the back seat of my car,” I requested. I smelled my way to them; they were buried under last week’s forgotten lunch. “Ah, here they are. This first one is about car accidents from CNN.”
“‘… [T]raveling by school bus is seven times safer than traveling by car or truck … more than 30,000 people are killed in traffic crashes every year, six school-age children die as passengers in school buses annually.’”
“The second one comes from the Center for Disease Control,” I continued. “‘From 2005-2009, there were an average of 3,533 fatal unintentional drownings … in the United States — about ten deaths per day …
“‘About one in five people who die from drowning are children 14 and younger. For every child who dies from drowning, another five receive emergency department care for nonfatal submersion injuries.’”
“Wow!” Elmer gasped. “You got me today, Ed. But you know, it seems like the whole country is walking on pins and needles after the Connecticut shootings.”
“Who can blame them?” I affirmed, “About 500 kids and teens die from shootings each year, mostly accidental ones – not massacres. Sadly, more than 1.7 million kids live in homes with unlocked and loaded guns.”
“That’s nuts,” Elmer added. “I have several guns, but I always keep them unloaded and locked – even though I don’t have any kids around. Still, it sounds like pool safety might be an even bigger issue.”
“Elmer,” I responded, “it has been a pleasure to talk to you.”
“What happened?” Elmer chided. “I guess these are changing times.”
Ed Vasicek is pastor of Highland Park Church and a weekly contributor to the Kokomo Tribune. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.