I look around a coffee shop during lunch, and what do I see? I see a worrying trend. A number of patrons are staring at the screens of their smartphones or tablets, possibly reading a link from Facebook where some blogger is bemoaning the ubiquitously observed fact that an increasing number of patrons in eateries or at home are just staring at the screens of their smartphones or tablets instead of talking to each other over a meal... I cannot throw the first stone, as that will be hypocritical, but I’m just saying that as a society we need to (re)learn the art of communication, be that face-to-face talking or at least through grammatically correct text, and not just via SMS abbreviations and emoticons.
I’ve been reading Harry Box’s ‘Don’t Throw the Book at Them: Communicating the Christian Message to People Who Don’t Read’. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants a better understanding of what it means to communicate effectively with oral communicators in ways which are culturally sensitive and most likely to reach the hearts of targeted communities. I couldn’t help but think that what the western world — the ‘literate’ and ‘educated’ world that we all-too-often take for granted — needs is to understand that how we communicate on a day-to-day basis may not be the healthiest for us in the long term. It may also impede evangelisation of our immediate neighbours. In Jesus’ day, as also still happens in most native communities today, truths, lessons and history are passed down orally, memorised as stories and sometimes committed to song.
The home is supposed to be a place of peace, purpose and promise, a fortress of safety, security and solitude. So why are people in the West spending longer hours at work when they don’t need to be there, or drinking regularly after work in bars with ‘mates’ (or alone) when they have partners or families waiting for them? The dynamic of the nuclear family of the West is not easily grasped by the extended families of an Eastern background. Many migrant families from Asia, for example, even though they have been in Australia for several generations, still maintain strong links with the mother country through correspondence with and travel to visit relatives and friends. They also participate in cultural activities with new friends of similar ethnicity. It’s encouraging that many are sharing these experiences with their western friends, and some also marry cross-culturally.
What saddens me is how many people today have an attitude of ‘we have our own family now so we’ll do our own thing’, and they may not see their parents and other relatives except on special occasions like Christmas or significant birthdays. Depending on the previous family relationships, this may be very intentional, and that is also tragic. But for those of us with healthy and positive family bonds, let us continue to hold them dear and foster ongoing communication with one another. We know that with technological advances the world is much smaller and people can be much closer than ever before — let’s not take that for granted and let the pace of modern life run rough-shod over us. Let us strengthen neighbourly bonds so that there are fewer instances of lonely elderly folk who are discovered in their dilapidated homes months or even years after they have died.
This year, make an effort to (re)connect with a loved one or neighbour, especially if he or she doesn’t know the true meaning of God’s great gift to man in His Son Jesus Christ.
By Andrew Chan
Editor – Serving Together Magazine
Used with Permission