OR… 21st CENTURY ‘WAIT WATCHERS’
I see you… you’re sitting over there waiting. It seems like we spend so much time waiting. We wait for our ride. We wait for the next meeting to start or the class lecture to begin. We wait for the ‘waiter’ at the restaurant. We wait for the nurse to check our weight. We wait…
I’m not certain if anyone has done a study on this idiosyncrasy we have developed when we are waiting. I am sure it has some cultural nuances but more similarities than differences cross-culturally dependent on the modernity of one’s surroundings. I also suspect the time which lapses between when a wait begins and this thing which we do almost subconsciously is initiated has decreased dramatically in the last two years.
What I observe in Americans, as I’m not traveling as much any more for a plethora of reasons, is also something I do. Like most, I do it when waiting and without even thinking about it. By now you may know of that which I speak.
Let me pose it to you as a question and I want you to NOT answer it now. I want you to, yes, wait until the next time you have to wait for someone or something and then, when you catch yourself doing it… consider how long it took you to begin. Better still, ask someone with whom you spend a good deal of time to watch for you to do it and to time how long it took you before you began. That may be a better measure. I’ll get back to that concept in a moment.
What is the idiosyncrasy, the thing which we do almost subconsciously? Check our cellphones. Yep, the second we have to sit and wait for something or someone, we pull out our cellphones and look at them. We are probably not expecting any major news item, or phone call, or text. We just need to look at our phone. It didn’t ding to tell us there was a message. It just draws us to look because what was on it the last time we looked has changed and we haven’t seen it yet. We constantly check our cellphones and when we do it, we rob ourselves of real human interaction.
I believe some of us do it to avoid real human interaction. Think about it. You are standing in a line or in a small group waiting. Most, if not all, of the people around you are unfamiliar to you. In ‘old days’ we simply avoid eye contact, maybe look at our newspaper. (I’ll explain that to those who have never seen one or maybe suggest you watch an old Sam Spade detective movie and watch the private investigators hide behind a newspaper while surveilling someone, usually in a hotel lobby… nowadays, a spy cannot hide behind a cellphone like they could a newspaper!)
Avoiding eye contact, though, is uncomfortable if you don’t have something at which to stare. Of course, once you make eye contact with a stranger standing a few feet from you, you are forced to acknowledge that they exist and that you can see them. Then they are forced to return the acknowledgement and now, it’s blown. You both know the other exists and the other knows you know they exist so you almost have to speak to them. You have to use real words and your voice and make a facial expression to coincide with the words so as to communicate with them. WOW! If you had just looked down at your cellphone earlier, you could have avoided this whole uncomfortable situation! You are now perhaps forced to get to learn a little bit about someone you did not know before.
This may come as a surprise but you may find that in meeting someone like this, in human form, with a body and a smile and eyes that respond back to your smile, there could be a new friend or at least an acquaintance. It may be someone interesting and enjoyable.
Even better, they may be someone who needs to know Jesus.
“Oh no!”, you say. “You’re not taking me down that evangelization path where I have to give five points and a prayer to everyone I meet!”
NOPE. Maybe they just need someone to say “Hello” to them and smile at them so they know they exist. You’ve heard the story, I’m certain, about the man who was walking to the bridge to commit suicide and decided that if one person smiled at him on his way, he would not kill himself. I don’t know if that story is true but what if it was and that one person was the person standing in line in front of you at the grocery store and they happened to turn and look at you? Would they get a smile or would you be staring at your cellphone?
I have another thought on the subject and that is the actual reason for this message and its title, but before that, one quick rabbit trail about eye contact. If you are a parent or grandparent of a child – any age – even grown with children of their own, but especially the littlest of the brood, answer this. Think about the last time that they came to you and just had to tell you something at that moment, it could not wait another second! They just had to tell you something so important! Did you stop whatever you were doing, (like staring at your cellphone) and look in their eyes as they told it to you or did you just tolerate it for a second and go, ‘un-huh’? If you did the latter, I guarantee you they walked away knowing you didn’t hear them and they suspect you don’t care about what they have to say. What would it have cost you to really listen and be there? Imagine what you and they would have gained if you had!
Okay, that was a freebie thing to think about. Back to the real purpose.
Even if we are not using our cellphones to avoid human interaction, we may be robbing ourselves of important uses of our wait time.
Are you like me and get every single red light?
WOW! Don’t you hate that! All that wasted time waiting for the light to change! Once, when my children were small, pre-school age but very verbal (too verbal sometimes), I was behind a car at a light and the light changed to green. Almost immediately, my child blurted out from the back seat in a voice determined to be heard by the driver in front of us… “What are you waiting on, the Spirit to move you?” Oops… I was teaching impatience. At least it wasn’t, “There’s only one shade of green!” or something worse!
I started trying to use the ‘wait’ time to talk to God or at least think about Him. For someone I love and to whom I owe so much, I spend so little of my day thinking about Him or talking to Him… I’m getting better at that.
Some of our wait time would be great prayer time. It could be a time to simply think about God, too. Maybe, our wait time should be time when we fill our minds with the good things in life and not the fake news or gossip texts or the less than appropriate jokes we share. (I use the pronoun ‘we’ for a reason).
Do you know what got me thinking about this? I came across a small crucifix necklace that I really liked the look of and on it was engraved the well-known Philippians 4:13 passage, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” This one is sold by Heavenly Divine Company and it got my attention because of some of the things I’m experiencing right now. I thought, ‘You know, that might be a good witness statement and a conversation starter, as well as a good reminder for me.’
So, I went back to Philippians and read the chapter wanting to make certain I wasn’t taking something Paul wrote out of context and retro-fitting it to my current day thinking rather than Paul’s intended meaning. When I did that, I came upon these words from Paul:
“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” (Philippians 4:13 NKJV biblegateway.com)
How different would our moods, our attitudes, our human interactions, and our listening to our children be if we did what Paul suggested – commanded- rather than staying buried in our cellphones during our wait times?
Maybe we should think on these things.
I said earlier I would get back to you about measuring how long it takes us to look at our cellphone when we suddenly have ‘down time’ or ‘wait time’. What if there were an app for that? Wouldn’t that be an interesting bit of data to see when you look at your daily usage? Just thinking out loud on that one!