The pandemic continues. One thing in its favor is that it gives me time (and no reason not) to do things around the house that need doing. I’ve already thrown out more stuff in the last three months than I have in the past three years, and there’s still more to go. Once in a while, though, I run across something I haven’t seen in ages, and it brings me up short, remembering the who, what, when, and where the thing came into my hands. It was a birthday card from an elderly friend I’d known and loved for close to 70 years. We hadn’t talked on the phone for a while, and she wanted me to know she remembered my birthday and loved me very much. The night I found that I found myself mourning her death about three years ago, and how I’d never get to talk to her again. As if this week weren’t bad enough, the grief just piled on like whitecaps on a rocky beach.
The next morning I felt a bit better, although there was still some gloom there. I suddenly thought of another friend whom I’ve known since before I could walk. Her phone number was only one digit different from my birthday card friend, and I wondered if it was still working. It was a bit of a risky move for me, but what the heck, it was the closest thing to an adventure I can experience, given the quarantine, low finances, and the distance to back home. I dialed it, and lo and behold, a familiar voice answered. I almost cried. I hadn’t talked to her in probably fifteen years, and all I had to say was “Hey” and her name for her to know it was me. I started to laugh, and so did she. Even at over 80 years of age, her voice and her laugh haven’t changed an iota. It was like we hadn’t spoken since yesterday.
It was a real pick-me-up. Of course, we had things to catch up on and chit chat as well, but we talked for over an hour. It was re-establishing a bridge and a bond that I’ve missed but have just been too afraid or perhaps too lazy to repair. Oh, well, it’s done now, and things are all for the better.
In less than one hour, my depression and lack of energy had lightened. It occurred to me that perhaps I need to get in touch with old friends a little more often before they too become residents of a place with no politics to argue about, no illness to handicap them, and no sadness to weigh them down. If the amount of love I have for them were enough, they’d be in the highest ranks of the heavenly host. As it is, I’m sure their lives here and how they lived them are much more important than just caring about and loving a little kid who grew up and then moved away to other places. No matter where I was, though, they still cared, and my knowing that was such a great blessing.
I remember when the phone was used only for local calls. For long-distance, it had to be something truly significant – a birth, a death, an engagement, or a check-up call on an ill family member who was too far away to visit. I remember being quite homesick at college, so I risked a long-distance call to my family simply to hear their voices. Calls cost money, and we had to be very frugal with it. Now I (and probably a lot of other people) think almost nothing of picking up a cell phone and calling someone on the other side of the country (or even the world) to ask a question, offer congratulations, or just get caught up on the local goings-on. For me, that’s a change for the better. And I don’t have to fight the bookie or the bootlegger on the party line to be able to get a call through!
Jesus didn’t have a cell phone to use to call his mother once a week. Sometimes that’s hard to think about since our worlds are so different. There wasn’t an internet with access to newspapers all over the country, even small local ones, where a person could keep up with what was going on back home. I wonder – would Jesus have used Facebook or Twitter? Would paparazzi have followed him around, taking flash pictures and jostling for soundbites? Would the message have gotten across as Jesus spoke it, or would it have been slanted to fit someone else’s agenda? Would the Bible we use be even recognizable to us, or would the latest translation or interpretation jostle for a place on the New York Times Best-Seller List? As much trouble as we have realizing that the writers of the Bible lived and wrote in very different times and cultures, we can’t assume that our understanding is the right one until we have checked to see what the first hearers would have heard and comprehended. Things that the people at the sermon on the mount understood would be very different today. At least with today’s media and long-distance, we can hear and read a lot of different versions and try to gauge what is correct and what isn’t. Even then, we aren’t always sure.
For now, I think I will just settle for choosing the scholars who I understand to be accurate and correct in their interpretation. I’ll skip reading the news until things calm down, both pandemically and politically. If I feel down, I’ll call someone I haven’t talked to in a while. It might just be that they might be wanting to hear a real person with a friendly voice with whom they can talk about anything they want (and skip what irritates, ticks them off, or makes them sad). Now that’s a real gift from God! Please pass it along!
Image: Western Electric 302 Rotary telephone. Author: ProhibitOnions at English Wikipedia (2008). Found at Wikimedia Commons.