Not long after my eyes opened this morning I enjoyed reading some of the early birthday greetings posted on my Facebook page. (Don't judge me.) It is heartwarming to be remembered by friends and family of course. Then I noticed something else; the remarkable number of countries from which those greetings came. I counted eleven even before 9:00 o'clock.
My host family during my 2006 stay in Syria, my daughter's former boyfriend in New Zealand, an au pair from Spain, a tour guide from Morocco, a pre-teen acquaintance from Australia, an a septuagenarian from Japan, business associates from Norway, Italy and India and fellow aviation enthusiasts from Holland, Sweden and France.
This international assortment of well-wishers reminds me of one of the great unanswerable questions. What has had a larger impact on the world, aviation or communication technology?
So many of my international friends would be strangers to me were it not for the miracle of flight. Air travel bridges the world. And yet, the phenomenal strides in communication technology incorporated within the machine are what turned flying into the experience in comfort and safety that it is today.
We have airliners that are computer systems, inflight entertainment that allows access to the internet seven miles above the earth, near constant transmission of aircraft and engine status and the pushing-the-edge calculations that enabled searchers to know the approximate location of the still-missing flight of Malaysia 370.
Birthday greetings from Syria remind me also that for all the positives associated with 21st Century technology, the unchangeable nature of humans keeps our world in conflict. My lovely hosts in Damascus were not unlike most families around the world in their desire to raise their children in peace.
For all our great achievements in the sky or through the airwaves, we have been unable to make progress in the area that matters most that is learning how to live together in this world we share.
Thoughtful birthday messages from friends I have met during my travels by air and delivered to me via the world wide web aren't important on the grand scheme, I know. Still at Christmas when many of us celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace, I choose to see these small gestures from people in my life near and far, as glimmers of a future when we will fly on to a better world.