Link to Grand Rapids Herald-Review

July 4, 2004 --

Enjoy the Moment

It’s not just our computers that multi-task today. Even people do.

A few days ago, for example, one of my young friends called me on the phone. When the conversation began, she was wandering around her yard while eating a slice of pizza and talking on a cell phone. Less than two minutes later, she was eating pizza while sitting on the sofa and watching television while still talking on the cell phone.

Her reason for calling? She was bored and wondered if I could suggest something for her to do.

It may be a consequence of living in the “electronic” age. We’ve gotten used to doing multiple tasks while supposedly “watching television.” We carry on a conversation — often a running commentary on the program — while sewing, doing homework, sorting fishing tackle, or a myriad other activities. Folks don’t just drive a car any more; they listen to the radio, talk on a cell phone, munch snacks, even watch DVDs — all while traveling along at 55 MPH.

As a result, people — especially young people — rarely just “enjoy the moment.”

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was privileged to grow up in an era when people hadn’t lost the knack for enjoying the moment. In my boyhood days in Fanwood, New Jersey — before air conditioning — summer evenings were often spent with my family sitting in the screened porch above the garage. There was minimal conversation; we were too intent on trying to be the first to hear the distant jingle of the bell on the Good Humor ice cream truck. As soon as we figured out what neighborhood block it was on, we kids would beg for a dime or two with which to buy an orange-and-vanilla Dreamsickle or an Eskimo Pie — and off we’d dash.

Even watching television on that gigantic 5 inch screen had a way of developing our powers of observation. Any remark about what was happening on “Captain Video” or “Chalky and the Giant” would result in a whispered, “Shh, I’m trying to hear what he’s saying.” Simply discerning the subject on that static-filled screen had a way of improving our visual acuity.

Those were the days before dirt bikes and ATVs, when you got a major adrenaline rush by riding your homemade soapbox derby car. It had no noisy engine to drown out the sound of the wind in your hair or the awed comments of bystanders as you plunged recklessly down the First Street hill.

Today, I feel sorry for youngsters who don’t know how to simply sit still and enjoy watching an eagle soaring on the thermals over the Prairie River. Who have no idea what it’s like to just sit your saddle as your sense of smell sorts the pine scent from the Timothy grass… until you finally identify and zero in on that patch of wild raspberries. Who never listen to a chorus of blackbirds and frogs in a swamp at sunset. Who never simply enjoy the moment.

…Who never hear that quiet voice saying, “Be still, and know that I am God.”

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