I recently spoke to a group of women. These women are current and retired educators or on the administrative side of education. As my speech concluded, a Q and A session began. What happened next was eye opening and something I never considered. One particular woman, in her late 60's early 70's, had a profound impact on me and gave me a perspective I hadn't really thought about. She raised her hand, and with the most genuine, honest, deflated, concerned and sad tone to her voice she proceeded to say: "I'm dreading the holidays already. This should be a time of year when I'm full of excitement, anticipation, and joy and I'm already worried about them. My children and grandchildren live out of town. I do not get to see them frequently, maybe four times a year. My daughter and son-in-law both have jobs that require them to be accessible, so I understand that they need to have their cell phones nearby. A large portion of my daughter's work involves maintenance of the social media posts for the women's breast cancer center she is employed by. My grandchildren are completely consumed by their tablets and cell phones. From the minute they walk in the door, until they leave, that's all they do. The reason I'm already anxious about the upcoming holidays is because I'd like to have a conversation before they arrive asking them if they would consider blocking out some good chunks of time throughout the visit with none of that around, but I don't know how to begin to broach the subject. I miss them terribly throughout the year. I think about how they are doing, what they are doing, what new and exciting things are happening in their lives, what challenges they might be facing....so when I finally get to see them, hug them and spend time with them, it hurts my heart when they are disengaged and uninterested in spending time with me."
Wow. In all of my posts, blogs, and articles that I've shared, this perspective....this, put myself in this woman's shoes moment, never really occurred to me. Once I heard her share her most vulnerable thoughts, she definitely had my attention. She tugged at my heart. See, I most often think about the damaging affects and lack of interpersonal communication that technology is having on us, but it's always so clinical, research based, and scholarly. What this woman did, was made it emotional for me and she's not alone folks. Can you imagine how many families will get together over the next seven weeks of holiday celebrations sitting around together but not REALLY spending time together? Can you imagine how many grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins might feel the way this woman feels? It's heart wrenching. It's not a complaint about technology, she doesn't feel technology is the enemy, she simply wants to spend REAL, QUALITY time with her family.
My holiday hope is that we can remember this story. My hope is that we take some good breaks from all of the pings, dings, notifications, and constant information overload. My hope is that we explain to our children how important it is to engage with Grandma and Grandpa, Aunt Suzie, Uncle Bob. How much they miss seeing us and talking to us face to face so, when we are finally together, we need to really BE together. My hope is that when we do this, we feel a burden lifted, we feel more connected than the "cyber connections" we are so accustomed to, we feel relaxed, we feel present and in the moment. Honestly, I never thought about how much it hurts our elders feelings to have us in their presence, but how non present we are. Something to consider. Keep Talking!