Socially Medium

I have to admit that there are times that I would like to close down my social media accounts. To bend a phrase of Winston Churchill, “Never was so much bad said about so few by so many.” It is the ease and spontaneity of social media that makes it so great and so damaging — all at once. In fact, observing the rancor and the vile ideas that are often promoted, I have found myself becoming socially medium.

Photo on 7-13-14 at 7.39 AM

 

“Socially medium” is the online equivalent of the passive bystander — quietly observing the mayhem of a moment and then slipping unnoticed into the crowd.

I wonder how many of us are out there being socially medium.

Don’t hear this as a call to join the boisterous inanity of those who attribute evil to practically everything. And, you know who you are. Perhaps we all should be thinking about who we are and what we stand for and make sure that we are, indeed, standing.

I know. Being socially medium keeps us out of the controversy and safe from the attacks of others. But being socially medium also allows us to simply not think and never do if we let it become our standard.

A step away from being socially medium takes us to a place where we think, where we explore new ideas and perspectives, and where we become curious. Dialog builds relationships. Relationships build communities. Communities, when bonded over care and concern for others, become the birthing place of all manner of goodness.

Care to join me as I think more, explore more, and feed my curiosity?

Mourning Finality

After the Bridges Are Burned

All my life, I heard “Don’t burn your bridges!” (Okay, so early on I actually heard “Don’t burn your britches!” . . . but I digress.) The idea, of course, is that you shouldn’t make decisions that don’t allow you to back up — to reverse your course if you are wrong.

Looking back on my life, I can see a lot of bad decisions and more than a few burned bridges. The decisions about education and career and those far too many cars I’ve bought through the years don’t seem to be scorched by a burned bridge. There were always alternative paths, ways to realign my life, after I made a poor choice.

The smoke still rises, however, from the bridges burned around relationships. I set a torch to some of those because it was “the principle of the matter.” I hoped by saying that that others would see me as noble.

In truth, in most cases, I did set a good boundary. I said “no” appropriately. I did the right thing. Until . . . I burned the bridge. And by doing that, I ended the possibility of future friendship. I destroyed the possibility of reconciliation.

So now, in moments where memories flow, I mourn the finality of burned bridges and quietly ponder rebuilding.

Some Things Grow on You

Four summers of my life, my mother helped me pack a footlocker procured from the Army Surplus Store and I was loaded on to a bus with old friends and those who would become new friends for a couple of weeks at Camp Blue Haven. I loved those camp experiences for many reasons. And, to be honest, I detested some of those experiences.

I distinctly remember the bathroom facilities. Those weren’t on my “things I love about camp” list. Very little hot water for showers — probably because someone had figured out that hot water stunted the growth of whatever it was growing in the cracks in the shower floor. But the scarcity of hot water wasn’t the big thing. No, the big thing on my “things I hate about camp” list had to be the lack of stalls for the toilet. That’s a common practice in many pseudo-military encampments — even though Camp Blue Haven was far-removed from anything military. But to this day, I just don’t approve of “open seating.”

Now there was something in the bathroom I dearly loved. There was a small sign posted just above the urinal. I read it and laughed each time I stood there. It was such a great play on words — and utilitarian at the same time. Each word and each punctuation mark so cleverly placed.

We aim to please, so you aim, too, please!

Words to live by. I still think of them each time I . . . well, you know. I do try to suppress my laughter now since, in the absence of the sign, other patrons of public bathrooms wonder.

Well, very little of what I’ve written thus far is what prompted my thoughts of camp and my two great lists. Instead, it was a song I heard this morning.

The Christian camps of my youth were before the advent of what we would later call “Jesus songs.” We sang mostly the old hymns and we sang them a cappella. I loved those old hymns. So you might understand my concern when a new song appeared — literally pasted into the front cover of the old blue hymnal.

“O Lord My God” was “new” to me. In fact it had been copyrighted almost ten years earlier. But in my tribe of shape-note singers, it was new. And I didn’t like it. The range of notes was hard for me, I didn’t know the words by heart, and, irritatingly, those camp leaders thought we should sing it every time we gathered for . . . anything!

Indeed, this set of inspirational words set to an old Swedish folk melody, was on my “things I hate about camp” list. And you can imagine my horror when, on my return to civilization, I learned that all church people, everywhere, had been infected by the insatiable desire to sing this song. For years to come, I was in agony whenever the pitch pipe blew and our leader would launch into this tribute to “awesome wonder.”

But I realized today that, at some moment in my past, all changed. The shift probably occurred some years ago. I saw it today.

As I dressed for church this morning, I was listening to streaming music. I reached down to turn off the Pandora app and head out the door when the introductory notes of “O Lord My God” filtered through the speaker. I couldn’t turn it off. A rush of memories streamed through along with the song and I had this feeling of fulfillment and momentary communion with both God and the many blessings I’ve experienced through my life. And I let it play. And I let the experience sink deep within.

All of this from a song I once detested. All of this from words I didn’t fully understand. All of this because of the truth that we are works in progress and our thoughts and feelings are like clay in the hands of a gifted potter.

If you run up against something — or someone — you don’t really care for today, be patient. Some things might just grow on you. And you’ll be a better person for it.

Dealing With Difficult People

The hotel clerk simply lied to me. As I watched his face when I confronted him with his lie, I saw his eyes narrow and his chin become set. And thus began another real-life opportunity for me in an area I wish I didn’t have to endure — dealing with difficult people.

I had asked for a simple form. “We don’t provide that form,” he asserted.

“You know,” I said, “I’m a frequent guest with this hotel chain — in fact, I have a fancy membership card. I’ve even stayed here at this hotel before. On many occasions, I have asked for the form and received it.”

“Well, my manager told me that we don’t provide that form,” he asserted. “So we don’t.”

“Let me get your full name so that when I talk with your manager, there won’t be any confusion,” I replied.

He shifted his name badge my direction but it had only his first name. “That’s all you need to know,” he said. “And if you want that form you can download it and print it.”

I did just that. When I handed it to him a few minutes later, I could see what he was thinking, “OH! That form!” He slid my keycard across the counter and said nothing.

“Thanks!” I said. “You know, an apology and acknowledgment now would be nice.”

He said nothing. I picked up the key and headed to my room. Within fifteen minutes, I had written and saved the text I would paste into the survey I always get from this hotel chain after a stay. Here’s what it said:

“Your desk clerk, Tim (not his real name), was having a very bad day when I arrived. I hope that you’ll encourage him. Tell him that I understand his difficult position and sometimes he just needs to pause and breathe. Often, the right thing to do is easy to choose when you simply pause and breathe.”

That, of course, wasn’t the first thing I’d written. It was what came to me after I paused and did a little breathing.

 

 

Friends . . . Actually

Years ago, my decisions about who my friends were or were not were more simply made. I simply avoided you if you said or did things that I found disturbing.

You would think that the same principle would be involved in social media. I fully understand that it can be. I see posts all the time where people “unfriend” others and, if pushed hard enough, completely leave FaceBook or whatever their platform of choice is.

I’ve “unfriended” a few people in the past. To date, my standard has been to unfriend anyone who exhibits hate and discrimination in their personal posts. Oh, and anyone who has a fascination with the “F” bomb or taking God’s name in vain. (“OMG! Addicts,” you’re nearing the edge.)  I am “friends” with a wide array of individuals — many of them sensitive to such rubbish. Others are young and losing their innocence to what our greater society has begun to find acceptable. Enlightenment never looked so dark. I don’t choose for my internet spaces to be the place where they get further exposure to such things.

I am close to “unfriending” some others of you. You’re pushing the line by reposting things that you haven’t checked out and that are largely false or misleading. Just writing the word “Truth” by those posts doesn’t make them true. Others of you are posting things that do have truth at their base. However, by watching what you post day after day, I have to wonder if you choose to feature only stories that will escalate violence and hatred. If I unfriend you, it won’t be because of your view of what is right and wrong, but only because of the way your actions are perpetuating bad sentiment and behavior among others.

Because of my life experience, I have been honored to form friendships among diverse groups of people. Politically, racially, ethnically, spiritually. I have been stretched by that diversity and I am grateful. But lest you think that you are on the “right” side of my friend set and that you’re safe from the point I’m trying to make, I want to be clear that I’ve found people on both sides of the dividing line. The desire to incite negative outcomes seems to be an equal opportunity malady. I am not immune either.

I strongly believe that unfriending any of you (except for those who violate my standards about the personal bile and profanity) is not the best answer. No, I’m not keeping you on as friends because I think I can change you. I need my perspective to be broad. I need to have as friends those who think differently, see differently, and choose differently than I do. You make me uncomfortable sometimes. But that’s the point. I see goodness in you. And I hope you can look past my multitude of failings. Friends do that.

In fact, some of the discomfort you’ve blessed me with has caused me to pause and reconsider my position on some things. I’ve changed as a result. Thank you. Other things I don’t agree with have convinced me that I need to find ways to better understand you, because the ideas you are posting aren’t doing it.

My plea to you, my friend, is to be responsible. No matter how badly you see and know an injustice to be, remember that we, as God’s children, as peacemakers, are to be a peculiar people. Don’t escalate violence. Talk. Talk loudly if you must, but respectfully. March peacefully. Help bring change to this broken world. But please help stop this vicious cycle of retaliation and justification of the unholy — from both sides.

I say this as one friend to another.