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Kittredge: Recall And Repair

I don’t usually answer calls from 800 numbers, but for some reason I did a couple of weeks ago. Adding to my tendency to dismiss these calls, it was an automated message, but it quickly got my attention.

It was from Honda and the message said in no uncertain terms, “Do not drive your car. Step away from the vehicle.” It seems that my car is being recalled because it has an airbag inflator made my Takata. The defect in these inflators can cause metal shards to be propelled into the vehicle when the airbag is activated, potentially resulting in injury and death to the occupants. So far twelve people have been killed. The message instructed me to contact my local dealer immediately and arrange for a rental vehicle until mine could be fixed.

At first I thought, “Gracious, I’ve been driving this car for seven years; it must be fine.” Though it’s true the airbag had never deployed. The rub came when I got behind the wheel and tried to convince myself everything was okay. It didn’t work, every tree and oncoming car seemed threatening. So I followed instructions, called Honda, went to my dealer and now have a rental car for, they estimate, at least six months. It seems that Honda, like other manufacturers who have used Takata, can’t find a reliable company to make the replacement parts.

A few days later I received a letter from my dishwasher manufacturer telling me that a heating coil could overheat and cause a fire and that, under no circumstances should I run the dishwasher until repairs done.

What’s with this recall mania? There seems to be a rush on taking back shoddy products. This goes beyond the guaranteed obsolescence we’ve suspected has been part of manufacturing production in the last 50 years. Certainly it’s reflective of the litigious nature of our society but I suspect there’s a lesson of another nature as well.

We are now in the season of Lent, when many Christians reflect on their lives, their faith, aspirations and failings. It’s a time to take stock, to recall perhaps past failings, to wonder about the things we’d like to do and things we’d like to recall or take back. Maybe we’ve hurt someone unintentionally — been dismissive or too rushed to listen carefully. Perhaps in anger we’ve thrown shards at the unexpecting or inadvertently ignited situations by carelessness or neglect.

It seems appropriate in Lent that we take time to assess our impact on others and on the earth; that we make amends for transgressions but more importantly that we take positive action to insure peace, justice and tranquility wherever we can.

Susan Cooke Kittredge is Associate Pastor of the Charlotte Congregational Church.
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