What’s more important, service or safety?

Chuck Tabor - Contributing columnist

On a recent flying experience, I heard something that, quite frankly, I could not believe.

After all of us passengers had settled into our seats, the pilot began his traditional announcement welcoming us aboard the aircraft. As he concluded his presentation, his exact words were, “We are privileged to have in the cabin today for this flight an excellent crew of flight attendants who will now direct you in the safety procedures for this aircraft.

May I remind you that these people are not here to serve you, but they are here for your safety?” (emphasis mine)

My jaw hit the floor when I heard those words. I do not regularly fly a lot, but that announcement was a total shock to me.

Had I heard the pilot correctly? For the next few moments, my mind began to race. What would this plane be like if I and the hundred or so other passengers got up into the aisles during the middle of the flight to go to the galley and pour ourselves a cup of coffee, or even to rummage through the drawers there for one of those minuscule packages of peanuts?

Had he really said that the flight attendants were not there to serve us, the paying passengers?

Just to make sure that I had heard correctly, I then checked a variety of other sources for the duties of flight attendants. I must admit, I was surprised that the great majority of those sources agreed with the captain on my flight.

One source even proclaimed that “Almost all of the flight attendant’s duties are safety-related, though customer service is also important.”

I must admit that I always thought those people running up and down the aisles, pushing carts, carrying trash bags, and telling me to raise my seat to the upright position and stow my tray table prior to take-off were doing those things for my comfort. Any concern for safety was just an add-on benefit.

Believe it or not, I am old enough to remember when they were called air hosts, then stewards and stewardesses. I also remember when they served full meals to everyone, not just those passengers riding in and paying for first-class service.

With the increased expense of flying a huge machine through the air, and the importance of having airplanes filled to the uttermost with paying passengers, the challenge for those employees has been tremendous.

They still do a lot of “service”-type activities, like selling snacks and drinks to those who wish to have them. But I never before realized they were ONLY there for my safety, or even primarily for that purpose!

I guess I am not as good a listener as I have always thought I was, because I had never before heard it put that way.

Hmmm… service or safety? Which is more important?

We are living in a time and culture when that question is being asked about more than just airline flight attendants. It is a fundamental issue being debated almost daily in the halls of Congress and in state houses across our nation.

In considering this question, it may be to once again helpful to recall the price that was paid for the freedom we enjoy. On July 4, 1776, the final draft of the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the delegates of the 13 colonies meeting in the Pennsylvania State House. The representatives who attached their signatures to the document knew that the cost would be high.

Every one of the individuals who signed that document paid a great price for their commitment to that cause which we so smugly enjoy today. The men who affixed their signatures to that document during that fateful summer in Philadelphia forfeited their futures, their fortunes, their families for the cause.

We all know about the Thomas Jeffersons, the Benjamin Franklins, and the John Hancocks, who penned their endorsements to the bottom of that document.

But all of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence proved by their every deed that they made no idle boast when they composed the most magnificent curtain line in history: “And for the support of this Declaration with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.” We should always remember what they did to gain our nation’s freedom lest we take for granted that precious commodity. Liberty never comes cheap!

But as precious as that document is, and the freedom and the commitment it represents, the fact is that our lives were never intended to be lived in INDEPENDENCE, but DEPENDENCE – dependence upon God who made us, who has blessed us as a nation and as individuals.

Though not all of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were followers of Christ, they all agreed to the principle that we as a nation are dependent upon God for the preservation and protection of our freedoms. They indeed gave their lives in “service” for our “safety”!

Would you join me in boldly proclaiming our personal gratitude for all who have done so ever since? Thank you so very much!

The nation whose God is the Lord is a nation that will receive and retain the blessing of the Lord (Psalm 33:12). It is the heart of sinful pride which somehow suggests that we as individuals and as a nation can live our lives independent from the One who created us, and who gives us life each and every day.

Pride always goes before a fall. The challenge for this week and forever is simple: Check your heart today and ask God if there is any pride that is encouraging independence from total trust in Him.

If there is, confess it as sin, then rejoice in the “service and safety” only He provides!

Have a great Independence Day, and God bless…

Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the Hillsboro Times-Gazette and the Wilmington News Journal. He is also the former Pastor of Faith Community Church in Hillsboro and Port William UMC.


Chuck Tabor

Contributing columnist