Like as the waves make towards the pebbl’d shore, so do our minutes, hasten to their end. –William Shakespeare
Now, I confess. I love technology. The convenience is freeing and yet binding. I probably enjoy my Strava app more than most. Lately, I started noticing that I was picking up or pulling out my cell phone for really no reason. The chimes and dings have almost become Pavlovian to most of us. It calls we respond . . . immediately. Recently, I begin intentionally placing my phone in the back seat when I drive. If I get a call, I can answer on Bluetooth. Everything else can wait. So why the urgency?
Sitting in various public places, I cannot count the times children are sitting in silence while parents are scrolling on their cell phone . . . head down, the world happening all around, life ebbing away. Every now and again, a child will ask a question or ask a parent to look at something. The request is met with a flippant glance, or worse yet, just a “yeah, that’s cool” without either answering the question or looking up. The parenting aspect is only one tiny part. People, faces buried in phone screens, walking down sidewalks and bumping into other people. People who are busy on their phones while driving! To pull it around full circle, parents also use cell phones as entertainment, shut-the-kid-up boxes, instead of the child taking in the world around them. Society’s addiction to whatever information is being pushed out on various social media outlets is a growing epidemic that is causing horrific offshoots of parenting skills, employee production, face-to-face social interaction, vehicular injury and death, and on and on. According to recent survey in the New York Times, conducted by Nokia, in the average 16 hour awake-time per day, the average person checks his or her phone a whopping 150 times. In “The World Unplugged Project,” the University of Maryland reported that “a clear majority” of students in the 10 countries studied experienced distress when they tried to go without their devices for 24 hours. One in three people admitted they would rather give up sex than their smartphones! Many of you might look at that and say that you are not that bad, so it is all good. But are you and you do not realize it? Could you be without your phone for 24 hours?
As many of you know, I am a teacher. As this year began, we had our in-service meetings to prepare for the coming school year. It was during this time that I was told of an assistant principal who was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor and she was informed that she had 8 weeks to live. She is 34 years old. Eight. Eight weeks to live. Most of us look past an eight week time frame because we have a lifetime to live, but what if you had only that much time left on earth? A few years back, Tim McGraw had a song on the radio called “Live like You were Dying.” In the song, a man is diagnosed with a terminal illness and is asked how he would spend his days. In those lyrics, a portion of the song goes as such:
. . . I loved deeper,
And I spoke sweeter,
And I gave forgiveness I’ve been denying,
And he said someday I hope you get the chance,
To live like you were dyin’.
The assistant principal had told the person who was talking to me that the perspective of life cannot be viewed more boldly by her than now. She loves people and tells her family how much she loves them . . . constantly. Little things in life do not upset her as easily. She takes time to listen to life happen around her. She soaks in the precious conversations with her daughter who is in middle school and wants so badly to be a cheerleader. Calls from her dad are not a bother anymore. She found that hate did not have a place in her heart anymore. The beauty of life was in everyone’s eyes, from the cancer patient in treatment lying next to her to a random stranger at Publix. The assistant principal goes to sleep every evening praying and thanking God for another day and asks for just one more . . . that was 341 days ago. She sees the purity of life and love as the catalyst in her lengthening of life. For some reason, a recent post on Facebook just is not that important anymore. She still gets well-wishes on her social sites, but this person who only had 8 weeks to live almost a year ago gets to the posts when she gets to them.
All of this continued to roll around in my head, as I thought about the length of my days. We are not promised tomorrow. Technically, we could have only one day to live. Would I want a larger portion of my last day to be spent with my face buried in a cell phone? It will take a bit to condition myself not to respond to the beckoning of my phone by tone or impulse, but I am determined to breath in life and live like I were dying.