People often ponder on how times have changed. We look at these modern marvels and run to buy the latest gadgets and devices, thinking how much easier life will be because of that new smart phone. But is it better, or is it harder?
Times have changed and they always will. But, something seems different today. The modern marvels like tablets and smart phones are very cool, to be sure, but have they really transformed life for the better? A friend of mine, who is in her late 80’s, often remarks about how much simpler and better things were when she was a young girl. Inventions in her day were revolutionary for the times, but as she remarked, those innovations really did make life better. She can recall when things like velcro, superglue and the calculator were invented. Her generation marveled at the advances being made, but she says one thing was totally different: those inventions helped make a life a little easier, but they didn’t consume life.
This short story is a great message for the dilemma we face today:
God, Make Me a TV
Students at an elementary school were asked to write an essay about what they would like God to do for them. At the end of the day, while grading the essays, a teacher read one that made her very emotional.
Her husband, who had just walked in, saw her crying and asked her “What happened?” She answered “Read this. It is one of my school’s students’ essays.”
“Oh God, tonight I ask you something very special. Make me into a television set. I want to take its place and live like the TV in my house.
Have my own special place, and have my family around me. To be taken seriously when I talk. I want to be the center of attention and be heard without interruptions or questions.
I want to receive the same special care as the TV set receives even when it is not working. Have the company of my dad when he arrives home from work, even when he is tired. And I want my mom to want me when she is sad and upset, instead of ignoring me. And I want my brothers to fight to be with me.
I want to feel that family just leaves everything aside, every now and then, just to spend some time with me. And last but not least, ensure that I can make them all happy and entertain them. Lord I don’t ask you for much. I just want to live like a TV.”
At that moment the husband said “My God, poor kid. What horrible parents!”
The wife looked up at him and said “That essay is our son’s!”
Simple, short story with a powerful message. My elderly friend also remembers when TV was invented and people moved from radio to TV — it was not an instant transition, as many people still preferred radio. Plus, TV’s were small and there wasn’t that much on to watch. But, as she grew up and had a family of her own, TV still never played a major role in her home — it was nice and got better and better in terms of quality and options, but she never let it become more than it was ever intended to be — a convenient, occasional source of entertainment.
Her Shock at Today’s World
Ask my friend her opinion about cell phones, tablets and social media and she doesn’t mince words. In her view, they haven’t made life better, they’ve actually sucked the very meaning of life away. And you know what? She’s right. Today, we spend every waking moment talking on our cell phone or checking email, Facebook or Twitter. Every where you look, someone is on a device. How can we possibly enjoy life if we’re forever putting it on pause to see the latest tweet or Facebook post? What on earth could be so important about your friend posting a picture of her breakfast?
My friend is a font of knowledge and wisdom. She’s experienced a lot and she’s helped me to see that we’re not really living life, as much as we’re just kind of in it…sort of along for the ride, but not looking at any of the sites along the way. My friend has done a lot in her life and she credits her happiness to being involved, active and in the moment. She worked, raised kids, traveled, volunteered, went back to school…she’s experienced life and not once can she recall a time that a smart phone or tablet would have made her life better. When she needed to learn something, she referenced her Encyclopedia’s or she went to her local Library…where she knew people and they knew her. Imagine that?
The story of the student wanting to be made into a TV is very apropos for today. How many times have you seen a parent virtually ignoring their child while they talked on the phone…in the middle of the most crowded aisle in the grocery store no less? Life is now. Life is meant to be lived with vigor and we should have a zest for life because that zest is the definition of happiness.
Our cell phone and tablet may be a convenience. Facebook may be nice to stay in touch with friends. But if these things are taking over our life, then they’re actually bad. The difference between today and yesterday is that today, we’ve let the new fangled gadgets and social media platforms take over our life, where as in my friend’s day, they didn’t allow inventions to control them. They had a much better perspective on life and I now understand why so many in the older generations say “things were so much better in my day!” It’s because they were!
Try turning your smart phone off. Put the tablet in a drawer, shut down the laptop and turn off the TV. Instead of living life through an electronic device, we should be in the moment and pledge to make the most out of every day — that is after all, where we’ll find true happiness.
“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” — Maya Angelou