I’m not sure how many years ago it was when I heard Pastor Wallace’s sermon, but its message has stayed with me a decade later. In his sermon, the pastor described the benefits of stopping at a red light. As he spoke, I suppose I had a similar reaction to most people in the congregation. Red lights get in the way; they slow you down, and make you to stop. I don’t like red lights.
But, then he made his point: a red light is one of the few times that we are forced to sit and wait patiently. Perhaps, some of us use this time to think about something for a few seconds, a minute, or even more. It’s a time to slow down and put the brakes on our tendency to hurry through life. A red light makes us contemplate, wonder, question, pray, or just sit still.
I thought about that this morning as I stopped at a red light today and quickly checked my phone to see if I had any new emails. I had checked my email just before I had gotten into my car, so about 10 minutes later, it’s highly unlikely that I will have an email of such urgency that it cannot wait until I reach my destination in another 5 to 10 minutes. But I check, I check my email and texts many, many times a day.
Of course I want to be responsive to the parents who reach out to me, who may, at almost any moment worry or even panic about their children. But I was responsive years ago when I did not—could not—check my email almost constantly.
I was responsive and responsible as a professional. I was also probably more contemplative, a bit calmer, quieter, and slower in my personal pace of life. Actually, I think it was probably a better way of doing things.
I think I’m about average in how much, how often I reach for my phone. Having recently written about “Nomophobia” for this site’s blog, I realized how often I reach for my phone for really no purpose. I don’t really need it nearly as much as I think I do.
About a year ago, I traveled to the Galapagos Islands. While on the ship for 5 days, there was no possibility of checking my phone for anything—calls, texts, emails—anything because there was absolutely no service—just like the “olden” days. Of course I could be quite calm thinking that my trusted assistant, Robert, had everything in hand. No parents would be left without the help they might need at any moment. Quite honestly, it was wonderful being without my phone, without even thinking I had to pull it out of my pocket or my bag to have a look.
As I’m writing this, I’m looking at a mother sitting across for me. Her little boy is fast asleep on her shoulder and she is looking at her phone. Of course I have no idea what she is doing on her phone. If I look to my right, there is a young woman checking her phone. Does she really need to do so? I have no idea. What would have happened in the days before smartphones?
The mother would be thinking about something, perhaps patting her son’s back with the hand that now holds the phone. The woman to my right might be observing her current environment instead of being lost in a virtual world. I do not judge them—at least I hope I don’t.
The question we should all ask ourselves is:
Are we really better off with our smartphones? I think we all know the answer.