I know it is true at our house that the phone hardly rings anymore. We text instead — it’s faster! And it’s short and sweet. It hardly takes any time. We reason that we just need to convey a small bit of information, so why take all that time to have a long, unnecessary phone conversation? It may seem like a waste of time. But is it?
Part of the problem with texting and emailing is that it tends to be a bit impersonal. You don’t hear a voice. You don’t hear the word that is emphasized or the tone of voice that is used. I know I have misunderstood texts and emails because of this.
Perhaps you see where I’m going with my column today. I truly believe that there is nothing like the face-to-face conversation. Probably the best experiences of my life have been face to face with people. You can look the person in the eye and see their expression up close. And, as much as we are in a hurry these days, there is nothing like spending a significant amount of time with another person. When you do that, you build deep relationships and show that you care about the person.
A friend of mine said to me the other day that it seemed to him like we do not know how to do hospitality anymore. We go to work, come home and stay home by ourselves the rest of the night watching television. We don’t invite others in to our homes because maybe we think our house is a mess, or our furniture is old and out of date. But that shouldn’t really matter.
I read a book once which had the title, “Open Heart, Open Home.” Having people into your home is a great way not only of sharing good food and meaningful conversation — it’s a way to share your heart!
John Donne said it well when he said, “No man is an island.” Barbra Streisand said it, too: “People who need people, are the luckiest people in the world.” Yes, we do need people in our lives.
I have especially experienced this in my life as a Christian.
Although Christians often talk about having a personal faith or a personal relationship with the Lord, it is also true that the Christian community is important. Even Jesus didn’t work alone. He gathered a number of people around him. And everywhere his followers traveled, they gathered a group of believers together.
It is also significant that in the New Testament there are so many verses with “one another” in them. Paul alone instructs believers to “love one another,” “be patient with one another,” “encourage one another,” “serve one another” and “offer hospitality to one another.” And those are just a few; all told, there are 59 references that use the phrase “one another.”
Being a pastor, I have had many funerals and I must say that the saddest ones are those where the deceased apparently has no real friends. Some of the saddest and most haunting words in a song are the ones in the last verse of the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby.” “Eleanor Rigby died in a church and was buried along with her name. Nobody came.” The song’s sad theme seems to be that there are so many lonely people in the world. And it really doesn’t seem to offer any solutions.
From the very beginning, God knew that “it is not good for the man to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18) It seems to me that all of us bear a responsibility to make sure that no one is alone. Is there someone you know who always seems to be by himself or herself? Maybe in your neighborhood, or at work. Reach out to them with a smile or a handshake. Start a conversation. Show that you care.
I recently heard about a man who was so down and out that he was thinking about taking his life. So he got on a bus headed for the Golden Gate Bridge. While on the bus, he was hoping that someone, anyone, would at least smile at him or say a kind word to him so he would know that he was valued. If they did, he wouldn’t go through with it. But no one did. Even the bus driver, who was the last person for him to encounter, yelled at him and said, “End of the line, kid! You gotta get off.” So he went through with it. He jumped — but he survived.
So now he tells his story in the hopes that people will show that they care for others. It’s such a simple thing. But who knows? You could make the difference in a person’s life.
— About the writer: The Rev. John Koedyker is pastor of congregational care at First Reformed Church of Grand Haven.