There are graphic examples in our world of the necessity of relationship. I remember reading of a visit to an orphanage where the children were never touched. The writer shared that upon entering, all was ghastly quiet. The children in cribs had long stopped crying since no one came, and they lay curled in fetal positions waiting to die.
Or recall survivor stories from those who loved through concentration and prisoner of war camps. Often, a key element for those who survived was relationship. It is oxygen for living, purpose for going forward, hope in the midst of terror.
These examples provide a dark backdrop for the glory that is person to person relationship, a glory that I can too easily neglect. My battle is not one of adversity, but of prosperity. Throughout the years of my life, the marvels of technology have proven to be a temptation to stealthily and seductively erode this wellspring of life called ‘knowing.’
As a child I was protected somewhat, because for many years if a TV was working in our house, it was black and white. Yet I can still vividly remember standing in my friend’s living room, mesmerized by Kimba, The White Lion in full color. I didn’t want to move. Roll forward a decade and a half, and while talking in the dorm’s common room to the beauty I would someday marry, finding myself distracted by reruns of M*A*S*H. Really?
When I started working for Pepperidge Farm in 1984 I was asked to send a fax. I had no idea what that was. Back then it consisted of rolled blue carbon paper that printed out a memo through the phone line. Over the next thirty years we were trained in audix, pagers, flip phones, blackberries, computers, laptops, iPhones and iPads. All of these, while enhancing some aspect of productivity, warred against relationship. Surprising were the hours spent as a middle manager reconciling relationships damaged from misunderstood communications.
As a dad I remember having to turn off a screen to break the trance that held my teen sons engaged in Halo or another video game. The reason I knew I needed to do that? Because when I was playing with them that’s what it took to pull me back to reality. I always wondered what would have happened had the house caught on fire at those times.
But now in 2020, the enticements are that much stronger as cable, social media, HD and 3D movies seduce one to watch someone’s amazing life, to the neglect of enjoying your own. How twisted when we cherish replication over reality, pixels over people.
While I have had some success in the battle by consciously limiting my intake of electronic media, what has made the greater difference is prioritizing people interactions. I accomplish this by initiating and scheduling events: excursions with my wife, playtime with the grandchildren, meeting with hurting people, serving friends in need, and mentoring the next generation.
The old adage that says one can know your life and priorities by examining your calendar and checkbook (bank app today) still holds true. But instead of either beating myself up, or congratulating myself for my activity of lack of activity in the past, I simply aim to open up next month’s calendar and make some decisions – when and where do I want to experience relationship and life?
What would that look like for you, with your gifts, personality, resources and interests? Take some time to plan next week. And it’s ok if you use your iPhone to figure it out!