It was shocking almost — this simple moment that changed me one day. They happen like that, don’t they? Epiphanies. They arrive at the strangest times.
I was sitting in the airport alone, furiously typing on my laptop. Oblivious to the bustling hive surrounding me. I looked up for a moment, and a stranger’s eyes landed on mine — warm and smiling (no, it wasn’t a flirting smile. It was just a spontaneous, “I’m recognizing you as a fellow human,” sort of smile). And it gave me serious pause. It felt almost foreign, this moment of connection. But I’d been too absorbed in my work to take in God’s people all around me.
There are 7 billion of us on earth. No one should ever feel alone, but yet, so many are isolated. Marginalized. Friendless; voiceless; lonely. In need of a smile that might just change their heart.
Because part of what I do includes managing social media for clients, I spend a fare amount of time online. And don’t get me wrong — I love it. I’ve always been a social butterfly. But that day it hit me like a ton of bricks — Facebook isn’t the same as face-to-face time (yes, FaceTime or Skype is close, but still not the real deal). It’s been proven over and again babies love to look at faces; their very lives depend on those interactions. And in our hyper-connected age, spending time online may feel like we’re socializing, but in reality, we’re still just staring at a screen and typing.
It’s just a screen. It’s not a real, live person.
I wonder — how many opportunities have I missed to lock eyes with another human when I’m staring at my cell phone? When was the last time I knocked on the door and chatted with a neighbor instead of commenting on posts? Why did I take time to sign a petition online when I could have stopped in to check on an elderly member of my church? How many opportunities did I miss to be, “salt and light” to others in real-time?
All this reminds me of the story of Martha and Mary in the 10th chapter of the book of Luke. In preparation for a visit from Jesus, Martha scurried. She polished her home and whipped up treats; she exhausted herself making everything perfect for her guests. By comparison, her sister, Mary, planted herself at Jesus’ feet, content to just listen. Resentful, Martha called Mary out on her slacker tendencies and asked Jesus to admonish her sister for failing to help.
I can picture our sweet Jesus, gently turning the tables on Martha when he replied, “Martha, Martha, you are worried about many things, but few are needed — or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
It takes so much effort sometimes — especially for us busy bees — to stave off the urge to get one more thing done. Or to tweet, post, or pin when we’re in the midst of strangers, neighbors, friends, colleagues, spouses and children who would be blessed by our eye contact and undivided attention.
In 2013, I want to be more like Mary. To focus on what is “better” — to love God with all my heart, mind and soul, and to love my neighbors. To spend a little less time on Facebook, and engage in a little more face time – the real one, that is!
• Ahwatukee Foothills resident Diane Meehl is a freelance writer and editor. Along with her family, she worships at Mountain View Lutheran Church. Connect with her in real-time during drop-off at Horizon Community Learning Center, or send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.