In the early 60’s, my Dad met a stranger who was new to our small town. From the beginning, this enchanting newcomer fascinated my Dad and we invited him to live with our family. We quickly accepted the stranger and he became part of our family. As I grew up, I never questioned his special place in my family.
My parents were complementary instructors: Mom taught me good from evil, and Dad taught me to obey. Yet the stranger, he was our storyteller. He would keep us spellbound for hours on end with adventures, mysteries and comedies. If I wanted to know anything about politics, history or science, he always knew the answers about the past, understood the present and could even predict some future events.
He took my family to the first major league ball game. He made me laugh, and he made me cry. The stranger never stopped talking, but Dad didn’t seem to mind. Sometimes, Mom would get up quietly while the rest of us were shushing each other to listen to what he had to say. She often went to the kitchen to get some peace and quiet. (I often wondered if she ever prayed that the stranger would leave.)
Dad ruled our household with certain moral convictions, but the stranger never felt obligated to honor them. For example, our parents did not allow profanity in our home – not from us, our friends or any visitors. Our long time visitor, however, got away with four-letter words that burned my ears, made my dad squirm and my mother blush.
My Dad didn’t permit the liberal use of alcohol but the stranger regularly encouraged us to try it . He made cigarettes look cool, cigars manly, and pipes distinguished. He talked freely (much too freely) about sex. His comments were sometimes offensive, sometimes suggestive, and generally embarrassing.
I know that the stranger strongly influenced my early ideas about relationships. Often, he opposed the values of my parents, yet they seldom rebuked him. They never asked him to leave.
More than fifty years have passed since the stranger moved in with our family. He has blended right in and is not nearly as fascinating as he was at first. Still, if you could walk into my parents’ den today, you would still find him sitting over in his corner, waiting for someone to listen to him talk and watch him draw his pictures.
His name? We just call him “TV.” He has a wife now. We call her “Computer.” Their first child is “Cell Phone.” The second child is “iPod.” The newest grandchild is “iPad.”
A commercial on television today proclaims that we have technology today to do great things. Then at the end, the gentleman asks, “What are you going to do with it?” That’s a great question. We can use technology for both good or evil.
God made us to be social beings. We need each other not just to supply us with things, but to share our stories, listen to others and discover our real selves. We need to build trust in our relationships so we can be open to each other. We need to limit the time we spend on our cell phones, our televisions, our computers and learn the art of personal communication.
Relationships are at the heart of our religion. Jesus told us to love God above all things and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. We learn the art of love in our family living. However, family life has been hit hard by technology and other distracting activities. Many households do not share activities together as members did in the past.
Again, that commercial reminds us that we have technology today to do great things. The question is, “What are you going to do with it?”