By Bruce Stambaugh
My friend innocently reminded me of something I had said to her that I had forgotten. Her timing couldn’t haven been better in repeating my words of advice.
She said I had told her always to keep looking up. That comment referenced finding birds and bird nests in her yard. When I heard my words played back to me, I realized their application ranged far beyond bird watching.
My mind flashed back to our snowbird weeks in northeastern Florida in the winter. We had rented a condo right on the Atlantic Ocean for a few weeks.
I often greeted the days from the balcony of our condo. One particular day stood out.
The sunrise was spectacular. The waves were gentle, peacefully hypnotic in their rhythmic rolling. Where the waves lapped at the gritty sand, shorebirds busily foraged for sustenance.
An orange sun danced on the ocean’s horizon, reflecting glorious beauty across the rolling waters and brilliantly painting the sky. Dolphins played and fed in the morning surf before it broke upon the beach.
A few folks were out and about, too. But many of them seemed disengaged from all the natural beauty around them. Their heads fixated down to their hand-held smartphones, unmindful of the golden sunrise, the unfolding nature, or the inspiring sea.
During our weeks-long stay, I saw this same scene repeated over and over again. You don’t have to be on the beach to see it either. In today’s technologically driven society, I’m sure you have encountered the same situations in your daily routines.
It’s easy to see this faulty waywardness in others. For me, it’s much harder to recognize my personal, self-absorbed participation in this 21st-century phenomenon.
If we’re honest with ourselves, all too often we fall into the same ill-mannered habit. We become so infatuated with our gizmos that we disregard all that’s happening around us, including those we love.
I know. My daughter took a photo of me with her phone, of course, sitting on a bench in front of an ice cream stand on a balmy summer evening. My baldness is prominent in the photo because I had my head down looking at the smartphone I held.
I felt guilty when I saw that photo. For the record, my daughter took it for the setting and color, not for my embarrassment. That was on my shoulders.
It’s a bit ironic, isn’t it? Sophisticated electronics designed to help us communicate much better and faster actually keep us from real interaction, like a casual conversation.
With constant, instantaneous access to information, much of it negative and harsh, it’s easy to become overwhelmed, disenchanted. We shouldn’t. No matter our individual situations, we each need to keep looking up, whether it’s for finding birds or keeping a positive attitude or noticing the events unfolding around us.
A restaurant’s entryway sign perfectly summed up the current social situation with a hand-printed message on their welcoming chalkboard. It read, “We do not have Wi-Fi. Talk to each other. Pretend it’s 1995.”
I immensely enjoyed that evening with my daughter visiting people in small towns where I had never been. We talked as we traveled, and I learned a lot, more than I did by scrolling my phone while we waited for our food.
I should have remembered to keep looking up.
© Bruce Stambaugh 2016