Bees are not made for the honey, beavers for the wood, nor humans for the iPad…
By Catherine Mendenhall-Baugh
How did we get to the point that we are so busy, we don’t have time to stop and “smell the roses” as the Mac Davis & Doc Severinsen song says?
New innovations have been available to make our lives simpler and easier. But haven’t they really only complicated our busy lives more? I’m referring to iPads, cell phones, laptop computers, email and Facebook – all wonderful tools designed to keep us connected. There’s no doubt we enjoy these things, but, I think somewhere we have missed some very important people connections along the way.
Most important among these connections, what about our family connections? Have we managed to get ourselves into a place where our schedules are so busy and can only be managed with the assistance of these communication tools? Do we honestly no longer have enough time to be a family – or even human - anymore?
I ran into a friend having lunch in a nice restaurant. She was sitting there with her laptop working. I asked her how she was. Her response, “I’m so busy, I have several things to get done for work, and the kids have their soccer games and recitals coming up. I mean, it’s hard to keep it all balanced.” She paused and then added, “I bet you’re excited though; you’re getting close to retirement.”
I told her it would be a couple of years before I retired but I added, “I’m looking forward to having some down time.”
I thought about this exchange as I was driving back to work. Are we all so busy juggling family life, working, and staying on top of all the commitments associated with these demands that somewhere we have stopped enjoying life and, most importantly, stopped being families?
“Life teaches us to make good use of time,” says an old adage, “while time teaches us the value of life.”
We live in a society now where both parents must to work to keep up with the financial burdens that life throws at us. But it’s not just the work hours – it’s also the prerequisite investments necessary to work in the 21st century. Working means needing all the tools to stay connected.
As an example, I admit to being guilty of this dependency issue. After leaving my phone at work one day last week, I started getting concerned that I was missing something vital on my phone. I even considered driving back to the office (located downtown) at nine in the evening just to get my phone. I found myself getting anxious about it. How did I get to the point that I felt lost without my phone next to me?
I decided that perhaps it’s time to reexamine my priorities. Wouldn’t it be nice to ask someone how they are and have them communicate what’s in their heart and not on their schedules? Wouldn’t it be great to just enjoy a family meal without anyone looking at the tablets, their phones, their laptops – even their email accounts? Wouldn’t it be a change for the better if we just limited time spent interfacing with these tools and devices?
You may say to me, “Well, how can we manage our busy lives without all the assistance from these wonderful tools?”
I guess my answer would be, “I’m not suggesting we walk away from them completely; I’m suggesting we reprioritize.”
Family is the miniature version of society. It is in the family where we learn to act responsibly, where we learn to accept authority. We learn values such as loyalty to other members, and respect of individual’s privacy. Can this really happen if we are overwhelmed with responsibilities to our personal connections and tools just to stay on top of our busy schedules?
I read the saddest story in the paper about a man who forgot to take his baby to the daycare and left her in his car the entire day. This baby died because he was so preoccupied with his job and his busy life that he did not realize for six hours that she was still in the car; she totally slipped his mind. The guilt he now lives with is enormous. I immediately said a prayer for him and his family as I read it. For the rest of their lives he has to live with this “oversight.”
A couple of weeks ago, I overheard a conversation at the store while waiting in line to check out. This lady was telling her friend she was thinking about getting her seven year old a phone for his birthday. A phone for a seven year old? Really?
She said this way she can let him know when he has appointments, and he needs to be picked up by his father and taken to his T-ball practices, and his play dates with his friends. She would also let him play games on his phone. As I was listening to this conversation I almost asked her if this was an appropriate birthday gift for a seven year old. But, I thought, maybe it is in our busy world. Maybe I’m the one that’s missing the point.
I am sure when Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Watson were working on their “voice transmitting device” in 1876 they were not thinking that it was going to be a great tool to check up on our email, to stay connected to Facebook, to play games and even to watch movies. Furthermore, I’m sure they would have been totally shocked it would be used as a birthday gift for a seven year old so he can stay connected in his very busy world.
As we approach the end of summer, a time of new beginnings – and new busyness, if not business – let’s make a commitment to spend more time with family, to engage in togetherness and friendship and maybe spend a little less time using our time saving tools to keep it all together.
Subscribe to the weekly e-newsletter Catholic, Ink. - click here - receive book reviews and the column "The Catholic Imagination and You"
Be part of the Catholic Literary Revival.