It seems like everywhere I turn, someone has gone iPad crazy. Although I have yet to buy into that little slice of innovative technology (even though I watched Steve Jobs’ schpiel), I am thankful it’s detracted from society’s more annoying obsessions, such as Miley’s latest “can’t be tamed” moment … no comment.
I might still type on an outdated PC, but there are plenty of other ways I’ve joined the technology revolution in the past decade. Whether it’s social networking, Internet on phones or ever-improving computers, I’ve played my part in the bandwagon of gizmo-lovers.
Those leading the charge in technology have given many reasons for their agenda. And one of these has always been to make people more “accessible” … whether in their jobs, for their kids, etc. We now exist in a world where we can be reached virtually anywhere, and through a variety of mediums.
Today I met two men, Mark and Christopher. They don’t work for Apple, and they’ve probably never heard of Facebook, but they taught me a very interesting lesson in being “accessible.” It was a lesson I doubt any piece of technology could drive home.
I met Mark and Christopher while walking back from the grocery store today. As I rounded a corner, two men sat on the ground in front of me.
I was greeted with: “Hey, kid! What’s on your T-shirt?” My reply turned into a 15-minute conversation.
Mark was was the first to shake my hand. His firm grip was almost painful, but his smile let you know his strength was the friendly type. He was missing his right eye. He talked a lot more than Christopher, and sometimes interrupted him.
Christopher was equally friendly, dressed in a hat that said “security” and wearing a dirty fleece jacket. Between the two men sat a used pile of cigarettes, a plastic bag full of food and a bottle of alcohol.
They were homeless.
As the three of us swapped stories about where we come from, our current lady situations and what we do now, I got the feeling that few people bother to chat with these men. Their humor and good nature made we wonder why. After another pain-inducing handshake from Mark, I continued walking home … and started to wonder if Mark and Christopher would describe our world today as “accessible.”
My guess is probably no.
But for those of us taking advantage of technological accessibility each day, what makes conversations like mine today so foreign? If technology has made us more accessible, why do Mark and Christopher still get dirty looks and ignored on a daily basis?
We have defined ourselves by something that was only meant to extend the real person that already exists. But so many of us have traded in aspects of real life, for something we can control and manipulate. We’re also given the power to block out the people we’d rather not deal with—people like Mark and Christopher.
Being accessible must be about more than a Twitter update, a Facebook comment or text message. The truth is, being truly “accessible” in the world is about how we live each moment. Technology should never become a place to hide from the harder realities of life, or the things that are inconvenient, or the things that make us fearful or uncomfortable.
This is a hard truth for two reasons. One, it means we must be secure and bold in the God who goes with us. When we’re face to face with those around us, there can be no hiding or pretending.
Secondly, it means facing the things we fear, rather than paying Apple to make it seem like we have. A smiling profile picture is always content with life, while the real person it represents could never be. We’ve been trained to appear perfect, even though everyone knows it’s impossible.
While working at a church a while ago, something happened that I will never forget. Around Thanksgiving, a man came in asking for food stamps to feed his family for the holidays. The church always kept gift certificates around for this very reason, so we were prepared. A pastor on staff was informed of the man’s presence, only to pass off the “responsibility” to another female pastor.
It wasn’t merely the pastor’s decision that upset me, but also the manner it was made. The pastor showed no interest or remorse, had no meetings to attend, and honestly no visible reason to turn down a five-minute conversation with a man who only wanted to feed his family.
Beyond church programming, meetings, events or anything else, the Church is here to love and serve people in the name of Christ. It’s the reason behind everything we do. The pastor I’m describing was a total techie: He had an iPhone, dual Mac monitors in his office—he had “accessibility” down. Yet, when a real, living person in need showed up at the door, he was turned away.
I tell this story not to condemn my pastor. There have been many times I’ve failed to be the hands and feet of Christ. Sometimes we just get distracted.
But it’s time to stop lying to ourselves. There is a hurting part of the world around us; people who will never read our Twitter update or browse our Facebook profile. And if we’re not being completely, wholeheartedly accessible to them, then we’re off-track.
Conviction is good—however, guilt won’t get us very far in this. It is a daily challenge for me, living in a community of dense poverty. But I’ve chosen to wrestle daily with how I can make a difference in the lives God places around me. Sometimes I need reminders like Mark and Christopher.
Will you join me?