A Slap Upside the Head, From History

“Please put your devices in ‘airplane mode’ and prepare for take off.”

But I didn’t want to turn off my iPhone. I was staring at it anxiously because I could see from my AirTag tracker that my wife’s suitcase was NOT ON THE SAME PLANE that we were – and there wasn’t a thing I could do about it. I watched as my bag and her bag grew further and further apart, until I lost signal.

I knew before we even got off the ground at Heathrow that my wife would be without her luggage when we arrived in Scotland. Yeah, that’s a problem.

We already had our flights changed – twice, our arrival pushed back, and now we would have to deal with a lost bag, late at night in a small airport in Inverness. The line to fill out the forms was long and slow, full of frustrated people. I was in full frustration mode as well.

We got to our hotel and I fell asleep for an hour. I woke up at 3:00am and called the airline to ask how the search for the lost bag was going. They had no idea. Nor did they care that I actually had a realtime view of where my bag was at the time: sitting next to concourse 5A at Heathrow. The rep assured me that they scan the bags and knew precisely where they were at all times, to which I responded, “If that were the case, the bag would be here and not in London.”

That’s when she hung up on me.

I called back and found a different rep who took down the information that I had and was very helpful. Then I went back to bed.

Things looked a little better the next day when I woke up to an email saying that the missing back had been found and would be flown to Inverness on the first available flight. My wife and her bag were reunited around noon, (phew) and from that moment on, the trip of errors started to smooth out.

Our first stop was a medieval castle called “Cawdor Castle,” of MacBeth Fame.

It was remarkably well-preserved as it has been owned by the same family for over 500 years. As we walked across the drawbridge, I noticed the family emblem over the main gate. It was the image of a stag’s head with two simple words underneath:

“Be Mindful.”

I didn’t give it much thought at first, but as we continued on our adventure, it became more apparent to me that the simple motto was a slap upside the head from history for me to do precisely that: Be more mindful.

Perhaps it was hearing stories about castle dungeons and loos, or visiting stone houses that had dirt floors. Perhaps it was hearing about people harvesting peat to burn in their fireplaces, or people starving, or dying in wars to support their Kings and Lairds. I couldn’t help thinking of the movie line, (“Dennis, there’s some lovely filth down here.”)

The more I saw the more I appreciated that I needed to be more mindful about how bad life has sucked for most people throughout most of history, and how hard merely surviving was for most people. I am painfully and gratefully mindful about how much my life doesn’t suck.

For much of the world, precious little has changed. I noticed that living conditions for people in the Iron Ages were quite similar to villages I have visited in Africa in recent years.

In the grand scheme of time, life has been a game of literal survival for most everyone until not that long ago. We visited the Isle of Lewis in the outer Hebrides islands and saw some the stone “blackhouses” that were constructed hundreds of years ago. Thatched roofs, stone walls, dirt floors, etc. Wretched conditions.

I was stunned to learn that people lived in those same 200 year old houses until 1973 – 12 years after I was born!

So, here I sit, on a ferry sailing to the Isle of Skye, typing this post on my laptop, with a pack of shortbread cookies and and “Irn Bru” soda on the table next to me…being mindful. The struggles I face daily are so inconsequential, by comparison, as to render them almost silly. I find myself irritated by petty things – like a delayed flight – when I could be mindful of how amazing it is that I get to fly at all! If I were able to be more mindful, and more grateful, I could probably attain a much higher degree of “chill,” and be more content in the process.

I would contend that our society has so much, so easy, that we have ample time to create new things to fret and obsess about because we aren’t out struggling to find our next meal.

Call it what you will: spoiled, lucky, blessed, fortunate, privileged, or that I won life’s lottery by simply being born when and where I was. I agree! I am completely aware of that, and the more mindful I am, the more grateful I am.

I am grateful for the Thane of Cawdor for including the slogan “Be Mindful” on his seal and on the entryway to his castle. Noticing this was the perfect way to restart our vacation.

Two thoughts from wise men:

“The grateful man sees so much in the world to be thankful for, and with him the good outweighs the evil. Love overpowers jealousy, and light drives darkness out of his life…Pride destroys our gratitude and sets up selfishness in its place. How much happier we are in the presence of a grateful and loving soul, and how careful we should be to cultivate, through the medium of a prayerful life, a thankful attitude toward God and man!” Joseph Fielding Smith

“Everyone’s situation is different, and the details of each life are unique. Nevertheless, I have learned that there is something that would take away the bitterness that may come into our lives. There is one thing we can do to make life sweeter, more joyful, even glorious. We can be grateful!” Dieter F. Uchtdorf

P.S.: On the subject of gratitude, I am extremely grateful for the technology that allows me to take and edit digital photos and write and upload this post to the internet while on the move. That miraculous tech was all developed during my adult life.

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  1. Irn Bru is the national drink of Scotland, or so we were told at a fish & chips truck by a Scot who insisted that if we didn’t like it he would give us a refund. We definitely liked it! Their commercials are legendary.

    Thanks for the reminder to be mindful and to be grateful. We seem to expect that life will be comfortable because it usually is. But discomfort is the currency of growth. There’s nothing wrong with embracing a bit of discomfort if it leads you to a better place, right?

  2. I was sitting in Gospel Doctrine class about 30 years ago, discussing the rich young man who didn’t want to give up his wealth to follow Jesus, when I realized that, as poor as I felt I was, I then had a better standard of living than the richest man alive when that young man was living.

  3. Lots of good stuff here. My wife and I served in South Africa and the Philippines. Americans live such blessed lives, materially, but sometimes we forget.

    Unrelated – in Bru – in South Africa, there was a soft drink made by the Coca-Cola bottler called “Iron Brew.” It became my favorite drink while we were there, sadly not available anywhere else I have been.

    1. It is my understanding that in Scotland it was originally called, “Iron Brew,” but the government said they couldn’t use that name because it contained no iron, and was not “brewed.” So they dropped two letters and Call it Irn Bru. Most popular soft drink here.

  4. What a great post! Loved the pictures and LOVED the message. What kind of crazy lucky card did we pull on the other side to be born in the day of air conditioning. I think Heavenly Father took one look at me and said “This one isn’t gonna hack it, she’s gotta have AC.”

  5. I am so glad to have you back. Reading these each week reminded me how much I need this. I love your posts. I love how you make the gospel so simple and applicable. I love the reminder to keep your eyes open because lessons are all around you. Thank you!

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