Connectivity and Trick or Treat

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Halloween 2017

Recently on Facebook, I received a notification “Your Instagram account callawayjonesfuneralcenter is now connected to Callaway-Jones Funeral and Cremation Centers.” That started me thinking about connectivity. We link our social media accounts; if we share a picture on Facebook, then it automatically posts on Instagram, maybe even Twitter. And that makes us happy we’ll reach everyone.
Aren’t the links of connectivity strongest when we get together in person? As much as I depend in my electronic devices, I know some of you have perfectly wonderful lives without computers. That thought also humbled me as I thought of the number of times I have driven back home after getting a few blocks away, realizing I’ve driven off without my cell phone. My need for connectivity is such that I must have my phone with me, particularly when I’m on call for business. People who need to reach me need me “now,” not when I finally get back home and see a missed call.
It made me think about how much time do I really spend tied to those devices? I confess to checking sports scores, catch trending news, and I’ve done it at mealtime. Guilty. But I’m ready to change that, and the upcoming Halloween holiday gives me the best place to start. Chelsea and I love going to costume parties. And no, I don’t dress up as an undertaker!
Many of you have already heard from nieces, nephews, grandchildren and neighbor kids about “what they’re going to be for Halloween.” They’ve planned far ahead. Costumes bought, made, handed down, borrowed—all tried on about 30 times before Halloween, as they “practice.“
These youngsters need to see our faces smiling back at them when they reach our door at Halloween. Clicking “like” on Facebook won’t do. At the same time, our senior relatives and friends need to see our faces too, in personal visits. A text message, phone call, or Facebook post will not ever take the place of arms around their neck and time spent in person, together. This Halloween holiday, let’s remember the “treat” of personal times spent together with family and friends, really connecting.

You also knew the ones who kept their front doors shut and the lights off in the living room, signaling for us to not bother coming by. There weren’t that many who didn’t participate, but these days I can see where it can be a bit scary to have people coming by at all hours. Even last year some people would ring the doorbell at 10:00 p.m. No, I won’t answer the door then either, even if someone says, “Trick or treat.” Won’t happen.

But, the neighbors and parents who would dress up in costume and either walk (or drive) us around to our friends’ houses one night a year certainly gave us memories for a lifetime. That’s the way family history gets made. How one relative might be quiet or not say much but at Halloween, they get all into the holiday and take celebrations to a new level.

Let’s face it. The price of candy has gone up. There are so many fears we associate with “candy from strangers.” Imagine growing up in a day and time where you don’t have to take your candy to the local hospital clinics to run it through an X-ray machine. There are also local medical providers who will exchange the candy you collect and give out candy you can be certain is “safe.” Safe candy. Safe Halloweens, Safe holidays. Takes a lot of fun out of the good-natured, harmless pranks behind saying, “Trick or Treat.” Everything seems to be a trick, on the little ones, it seems. But life goes on.

Today’s parents, and we have many friends who have children to know this, throw Halloween parties at their houses and they can control who comes in, and there’s no coming and going in and out, and children have been the greatest at adapting to the changes. Some children today will be walked by their parents’ hand up to selected neighbors’ houses and those are the only houses they go to, and maybe they’ll go to a church function.

Around Bryan-College Station, several churches are hosting “Trunk or Treat,” where church members pull up their cars into the church parking lots and folks from the community neighborhood as well as the church members can come to one spot. Music is going on, everyone is in costume and people open the trunks of their cars and have (safe) candy to distribute to the children. So, in many cases, churches and community centers have found their own ways to assure safety for the children.

But, back to communication. Hands in the air, now. Last family gathering involving more than four people in your home, how many of you took out your cell phone to take a picture, answer a text message, Google a score on a sports game or look something up in answer to a trivia question someone asked? I’ll put my hand down now, after raising it, because I know I can be the worst about checking my phone first rather than sitting there thinking about the answer that I probably already knew anyway.

I’ve been thinking hard about this lately. How is it we have become so connected to our electronic devices? They have become indispensable in providing “instant” communication and connectivity to people in our lives. That’s not always a bad thing. Say that a relative has had a fender bender. They can call you right away and you’ll be able to help them contact insurance companies if they haven’t already been called.

There is peace of mind in having a phone with you should the battery in your car die and you’re out in the “middle of nowhere.” That’s a good thing. But there’s a flip side to that in knowing that if you spend more time with your head staring downward at the screen than looking into the eyes of the person who wants to talk with you, that’s not good.

People are the most important “things” in life and time is the greatest commodity we can share with one another. I remember the saying, “You can’t have this day back again,” and it’s never truer than in the business we are in. Every day I hear people say that they were not prepared to lose a loved one “so early.” I hurt when they hurt, as I hear them say, “There were so many things I wanted to tell them, especially how much I loved them.”

I realize that the power of a few paragraphs and thoughts won’t impact anyone’s way of doing things except my own, but what if we all tried, for even one week, to write some old-fashioned notes and put them in school lunches for the kids (I know many of our friends do this for their children every morning already). Perhaps find a greeting card at a favorite store, even one for $.99 that says, “Thinking of you” and write a note and mail it to a senior citizen or a child, neither of whom get a lot of mail every day.

Isn’t it exciting to open the mailbox and see something besides bills and circulars?

You can be a part of a movement to reconnect friends, families, and communities. Start by talking face-to-face, even if it starts with a text message asking a friend to meet you for lunch. Then, at lunch, leave your phone face down and only check it if it’s a true emergency or to show your friend some photos. Start writing permanent messages again. Yes, you can send an e-mail if you usually send a text.

Something tangible you can save, which includes greeting cards sent by mail, are things that some people will look at over and over again. I know, because my grandparents saved cards that I sent them. I may have spent hours trying to color a picture for them, or maybe write a greeting card to them, or decorate something for them that I’d made all by myself. And to learn that they’d kept those things from decades ago? Like the commercial says, “Priceless.”

Happy Halloween to all, and may your phone batteries last as long as your memories of a lifetime when people get together to celebrate!