I slept a few hours on my brother’s cold floor last night. The vacant apartment that has become our temporary home, after the fire, has no phone line, and it seems that a cell phone alone cannot facilitate the work I do. So I chose to snooze on the floor near an Internet connection instead of in bed with my family and no connection.
Monday is my day off. Pastors work weird hours and Sundays can be exhausting. Monday is typically a day to recuperate. I return e-mails in the morning, have some kind of appointment for lunch, and the afternoon belongs to Lisa and Hanna. We go to the park, a museum, shopping, or relax and watch a video. It is the time each week that my cell phone is turned off, and my attention is focused solely on them. This will not be a typical Monday. We are homeless and I want to talk to the insurance adjuster!
9:00—Cell rings. It’s Todd, a church member who works with students at Rice University. He’s the kind of guy everyone wants to be friends with. I enjoy our conversations and would like to meet around lunch time, but I defer to the adjuster, in case he should call. Todd and I will meet tomorrow.
9:20—You’ve Got Mail!—I could spend my whole life returning e-mails and never do another thing. I love technology. My laptop is a thin, lightweight Compaq with a DVD player that can turn a “We are sorry, we are going to circle the airport for the next few hours” into a personal film festival. Nextel is my flavor in cell phones: The combination of two-way radio and free incoming calls maximizes its usefulness. I carry a Compaq Aero 1530 as my PDA. I love never thinking about what I will do today or trying to remember a phone number or flight time. However, I often loathe e-mail. The sheer amount I receive daily is often paralyzing. I can mention a word or a topic in a sermon or a speaking engagement, and before I get home my box is loaded with questions, comments, and thanks. But I also love it. People share their hearts on e-mail. They feel safe and they pour themselves out and share who they really are. I was flooded today with messages of love and offers to help. I cherish them. Rudy, a friend in California who runs a community center for kids in East Los Angeles, read the article in Slate and knew of our joy and sorrow. He sent us his prayers electronically. But he knew that had its limitations, so he called and blessed me again, saying, “I just wanted you to hear my voice.” He was right. The same force that creates a feeling of privacy also isolates. I love hearing people tell me in times like this that I am not alone. It is what I do with my life. I introduce people to a communal faith in Christ that says we are not alone in this world, there is a God, and we go on our faith journey not as individuals but together.
The cell rings all day with calls about one thing or another: an ad for the church in the Houston Press, an offer to wash some of our clothes from a single mom who has her hands full, a real-estate agent trying to find us a home, my parents wanting to take us to dinner and survey the fire damage, the pastor of my former church with more laughter than talking. Some people would say technology creates too much noise and distraction. I would agree. But the world is a better place when we really connect. I made connections with almost everyone today. Except the insurance adjuster.