Times have surely changed. Have you echoed that sentiment recently? I consider myself a confirmed people watcher. This is a hobby of mine, partly because I am so intrigued with human behavior and how we have changed over the decades. Particularly in the ways we socialize. Recently I came across this picture I took of some high school friends way back then. A few decades have passed since. This was what we called the ‘green bench’, simply because it was green. Lots of conversations took place here. We hung out and truly connected in meaningful ways. No devices. We touched, laughed, and used the spoken words. We were made to relate in genuine authentic ways.
Today many people have thousands of friends and followers but are alone in their darkest moments. Somewhere along the way we lost the art of going beyond the surface. Our connections have become quite superficial. So often people are in it because of what they can get. This younger generation need to see why we have friendships that have lasted decades. Why we go the extra mile for those in our lives. Why we go to great lengths to find our long lost friends and go to their aid when they need us. Why we stand by our imperfect friends and loved ones – forgiving them over and over again. Why we love in spite of. Why we don’t ‘cancel’ people just because. We choose to extend grace instead.
We meet on Tinder, swipe right and swipe left. We see photoshopped and filtered versions of prospective loves. Some of us have never gotten a handwritten love letter, not even a Hallmark greeting card. We do have a bunch of texts though. At times in our lives, we never had cars, enough cash for fine dining or expensive gifts. However, we had long walks, an ice-cream cone or a visit on our parent’s front porch – that was enough to keep our hearts fluttering for the entire night. Much less demand on us to be someone or something that we were not. We were enough and we got to know each other without the fluff. I love to refer to this as the simpler days.
Every morning I walk to my classroom I pass this ‘green bench’ where students wait to enter class. How different the picture looks today. Even on a crowded bench, students are attached to their devices. It’s not uncommon for my students not to know each other’s names after being in class two months, and they don’t seem bothered by it. This scene leaves me wondering if this generation is missing out on something very valuable – the human connection. Sometimes my heart aches as I watch them seeking validation from a face hidden behind a screen. Depression and other mental health challenges leave many unhinged and disconnected. In a crowd of ‘friends’ but have no real connection.
I pray that today we will continue to model authenticity to those who are looking on. Those who are struggling with finding or understanding ‘real connections’. In a crowd but lonely and empty. I have had to be intentional about seeing and listening to people when they are in my space. Choosing to put the devices away and look into people’s eyes. Not sharing my time with my friends and my devices, especially the ones I don’t get to see often. I don’t have to respond to every ping or alert on my devices – they can wait because you matter most at the moment. God made us social creatures and never intended for us to exist in isolation. We were made for meaningful, deep, and purposeful connections. Make the moments count today – let someone know they are seen and heard. We never know when it might be the last time we touch or connect.
When you do things, do not let selfishness or pride be your guide. Instead, be humble and give more honor to others than to yourselves. 4 Do not be interested only in your own life, but be interested in the lives of others.Philippians 2:3-4 [NCV]