Put On Your Mask First
Over my years of air travel, I've accumulated well over 100,000 miles. And although those miles have taken me to lots of different places, there is one thing all those airlines and flight attendants have in common--the safety briefings!
Some flight attendants announce the safety instructions with perfect diction and drama. Some mumble their way through the five minute predictable discourse. And, some drone on so long that it makes me wish for a power outage so those little red lights would illuminate the floor leading to an emergency exit so I could get out of there!
I know the job of informing passengers is important, I just think it's humorous how many different presentation styles there are! But, no matter the style or script, the flight attendant always instructs you to "put on your mask first before assisting the passenger next to you."
If there is a sudden change in pressure, oxygen masks will drop from the compartment above you. Each passenger is instructed how to pull it toward you, place it over your nose and mouth and strap it on. You are told to put on your mask first because if you try to help someone else get their mask on while you are gasping for air and turning blue, you won't be any help at all!
It isn't selfish or self-serving to "put on your mask first." Rather, it is wise stewardship of your energy and abilities. The same applies to our lives. If we never put on our own mask first, we will peter out from trying to help others. Mother Theresa once said, "To keep a lamp burning we have to keep putting oil in it."
We must pay attention to our needs so we will be equipped to meet the needs of others. So, what is your oxygen mask? What is it in your life that you need to pay attention to? Is it rest? If you're exhausted, you can't serve your family like you want to. You will just become cranky or run down, primed for illness and frustration. Is the oxygen mask you need exercise? When we neglect to take care of our bodies so they become weak or overweight, we limit ourselves to how and when we can be involved with helping others. It isn't selfish to take care of yourself. Taking time each day to take a walk, do some Pilates with a video or take an aerobics class at a gym will give you renewed strength and interest in giving to others. Maybe your oxygen mask is solitude. We all need time alone just to think, pray and breathe. If we neglect carving out time to regroup and connect with God, we will be empty when it's time to give to others.
The flight attendant always precedes his or her instruction with, "In the unlikely event of an emergency...." But, here's the way I see it--emergencies aren't unlikely at all! We are often called to put on someone's mask. Emergencies are as predictable as the delays at the airport! So, if we begin each day with the habit of putting on our masks first, we will be more equipped to fasten on others' masks when they need it most.
Take care of yourself, sister. You are the best qualified to do so. Discover what your "oxygen mask" is--you may have several--and strap it on each day! You can't minister to others if you're gasping for air!
Well, that's what's been percolating in me lately.