The pandemic, tech, and the older crowd

The word technology refers to themaking, modification, usage, and knowledge of tools, machines, techniques, crafts, systems, and methods of organization, to solve a problem, improve a preexisting solution to a problem, achieve a goal, handle an applied input/output relation, or perform a specific function. I googled this definition.

I started this blog with a general definition of the word technology. I hope this makes what follows much clearer.

Yesterday was Sunday. It was our church’s 131st anniversary. I’m sure church anniversaries are important events in all church’s. Being a member of an African American Baptist church in the Bible Belt, I tend to think they are very important. Think with me for a minute. The Black church in America has been the most important institution in the community. It has provided the harbor for comfort, spiritual edification, community involvement and social change, among other things, for generations. Our church anniversary has always been a note-worthy occasion. Established just twenty-five years after the end of the American Civil War, our church was among many African American churches established near the end of the nineteenth century. The church was the one institution the African American community could call its own.

Something happened yesterday that probably wouldn’t have had it not been for the pandemic. Our church anniversary was celebrated with a mixture of some members worshipping physically, on location at the brick-and-mortar edifice, while many others worshipped from the comfort and safety of their homes, watching the celebration over Facebook, YouTube, and live streaming from our church’s website. The onsite gathering was normal for pre-pandemic times, and it was a welcomed experience for the ones who attended. The decision to open the church back up to onsite worship in larger numbers was made prior to the resurgence of Covid-19 with the Delta Variant. The part of our congregation that decided to not attend the onsite gathering, but instead to worship virtually seemed to have enjoyed the experience as much as if they were onsite. I make this assumption based on the live comments I noticed on the Facebook live broadcast.

Zoom, Facebook, telephone conferencing were not even options considered by many of our church members a year and a half ago. I can distinctly remember many people making comments to the effect that they didn’t want to have anything to do with computers and smart phones. I often joke about how a service at our church resembles an American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) meeting. Many of us have been there for thirty years or more. Although we’ve had children, a lot of these millennials have left; some are attending younger congregations or simply off exploring the world somewhere. The amazing dynamic to observe is that the business of our church continues, because although senior is our demography, the folks have learned how to not only turn on a computer, but how to use it to conduct the business of the church. Chris is heavily involved in mission work with women in our church and around the city. She tells me of comments she hears from many of these women, indicating that they would prefer to continue using virtual approaches to conduct business after the pandemic abates. I’ve heard similar comments from senior men who are involved in auxiliary church activities.

There’s an old saying that says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Well, that might apply to dogs, but old people seem to be different. I think the pandemic has proven that to be the case. There’s nothing more impressive that a Christian whose faith convinces them that God has provided technology just for a time like this, notwithstanding the fact that these technologies have been around for quite some time.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be to.

P.S., although I’m old, I’ve been using computers, smart phones, and related technologies for along time. They’ve enriched my retirement experience over the last eight years. I’m excited to see others of the old and blessed crowd coming aboard.

Stark Trek on my birthday

The first Enterprise

Every year, Chris asks me what I want for my birthday. I usually say, “Nothing, I’ll just be glad to get up that morning.” My latter years and the fact that I’ve been here to enjoy them have taught me that less is more when it comes to recognizing your blessings. I remember when I was much younger, something material, with its craftily built-in obsolescence was what I had to have on my birthday. Thank God for allowing me to develop a little bit of wisdom along my journey.

Wait a minute, I don’t want to leave you with the idea that I‘m a died-in-the-wool minimalist. I’m just more judicious about things as I’ve gotten older.

If you’ve been following me, you know that I’m a Trekie at heart. I’ve been following this entertainment franchise since the first TV series came out in 1966. I’ve seen every TV show and movie multiple times. I have an impressive collection of the TV shows and movies on DVD. I wait with bated breath each time I hear of another movie or TV show coming out that extends the travels of each new version of the Star Ship Enterprise to some unchartered corner of the galaxy. With my affinity for Star Trek made clear, guess what happened this year?

Enterprise D

There have been three seasons of a TV show called Star Trek Discovery, which chronicles the adventures of a crew of space travelers before the time of Captain Kirk, Commander Spock, and the rest of the crew on the first Enterprise (NCC1701). Discovery is a unique vessel in several ways, which I won’t get into here since I’ve already shown enough of my nerdiness. For the last couple of years, I’ve waited until the fall of the year to purchase the full season of the show on DVD. I refuse to pay for the privilege of watching it on the Paramount Network (pay TV). I’ve got enough pay TV already. Furthermore, this is a CBS network, and the only thing I would want to watch on it is Star Trek Discovery. I can usually catch the rest of what comes on Paramount on the so-called free broadcast. Since we have cable, no TV is free.

Star Ship Discovery

I haven’t forgotten the question I posed a couple of paragraphs back. This year the Star Trek Discovery last season episodes came out on my birthday, July 21. Can you think of anything more fortuitous than that? Or maybe it was more by design? No. It was fortuitous. I’m sure.

Shifting into binge mode…

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

How’s that walk, that race, that journey going?

Often, the life each of us lives is metaphorically referred to as a journey. We enter our life as a tiny being, not being conscious of much, but even that point is the start of a journey. As soon as we become self-aware, we begin to make decisions am I going to eat that stuff they’re trying to feed me or not; am I going to walk today or not. Each decision becomes more complicated as we move along the path of our lives. As we get older and become more aware that our status depends on how prepared we are to live and thrive, serve others and be a part of a greater whole, we hit our stride. Unfortunately, some of us never seem to be able to hit our stride. Do you know a forty-year-old who is still trying to figure out what they want to do when they grow up?

The Apostle Paul in II Timothy 4:7 states, “I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” Of course, Paul is referring to his life of preaching the gospel and carrying out the commands issued him by Jesus Christ. He’s near the end of his life and he’s in line for all the heavenly rewards expected of one who has been a faithful follower of Jesus.  I’m a believer in Jesus and I can certainly identify with Paul’s statement; however, let’s look at the issue of considering life as a journey in another way. Let’s look at the title of this piece and ask yourself the question it presents.

I would like to think that most of us do give some thought to why we’re here. I would also like to think that most of us conclude that we’re here to be the best human being we can be. In pursuit of that goal, we consider development of ourselves physically, emotionally, spiritually as critical. If we are an all-round well developed human being, we would naturally think of service to others. We would see a sense of community as important. We would keep watch for people who are placed in our path as an opportunity to serve, even when we might think a particular person has all that one could imagine, material wise.

I’ve heard it said that we’re not here to just take up space. Interestingly, that phrase assumes that there’s never a need for someone to just take up space. I’m challenged to think how that function could ever serve a useful purpose, but who knows.

You may be like me, at a point where there’s more life in the rear-view mirror than through the windshield. If you are, you probably are taking an occasional retrospective of your journey up to this point. What service have you provided? How many times have you said no when you should have said yes? If your creator judged you today, what would the verdict be? Come on, you know the answers to those questions. I’ve never taken a test in school where I didn’t have some inkling about how well I’ve done before the teacher passes out the grades. One thing I remember about school is that I always had an opportunity to improve, depending on where I was in the term. Although we don’t have a clue about when the term of our life will end, we can improve the quality of our journey if we still have blood running through our veins. Grandma Moses was born in 1860. She began painting in earnest at age 78. She had a remarkably successful career in the arts. She died in 1961. I’m certain she had no idea she would have the length of time she did creating works of art for the world to enjoy.

If our self-examination indicates that we need to make some adjustments in our journey, it’s never too late to make those adjustments. We already know what must be done. We just need to do it. It’s our walk to take, our race to run, our journey to enjoy. I think Nike said it best: Just do it!

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

Life isn’t an “I” proposition

There are people in the world who act as if the globe, the solar system, in fact the universe leans and depends on them to function properly. From my observation, there seems to be more of these misguided souls among us of late, than we should have to endure. We’ve just been relieved of one of these persons from the highest office in our land. As I look at others in government and other supposedly positions of service, that individual wasn’t the only one who doesn’t understand the pronoun “I” should be used sparingly in thought and action.

In a recent Sunday school lesson, the Apostle Paul was quoted in the book of Romans as follows, “I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong – that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.” Paul was a very educated person, who probably had the experience and qualifications which would have given him more right to speak in first person; however, did you notice how he was quick to insert humility in the previous quote. He wanted the early Roman church to see him as one of them. Any edification that would come from his visiting them would be of mutual effort, not through the loftiness of his person.

We live in a time when we are constantly bombarded with commercial advertisement in volumes far too much to digest. Have you found yourself replaying some commercial jingle you’ve heard on TV, and couldn’t tell anyone what the commercial is about? You faintly remember it had something to do with some product that would make you a better person in some manner. Maybe it’s just as well that you don’t remember a lot of the details of much of the mundane stuff, we’re exposed to on TV commercials. Think about it TV commercials are often telling us that something’s wrong with the “I”. The “I” has bad breath, bad body odor, messed up hair. The list of malfunctions in the “I’s” life seems enumerable, but if you want to repair them, use this or that product. One thing that’s not highlighted is the built-in obsolescence that’s a part of these products. You must keep on using them to function properly, be presentable, be a better “I”.

It’s hard, next to impossible to not speak in first person. Someone asks you what you do. You know that classic question which cuts right to the heart of what “I” likes to hear. The question sort of prompts you tell what you do rather than who you are. You answer with some ridiculous response letting the questioner know that you have a highfaluting title in that organization in which you’re employed. From that point you and the person you just met are engaged in exchanges (not meaningful conversation) that make it sound as if you both run the organizations in which you work by your lonesome. What if your response had been something like, “I serve as the whatever, and I work with team of people who…”? The glorious “I” is still being used; however, it clearly understands that an island it’s not.

We’re all dependent on others. Without others, none of us would be. I’m a son, a grandson, an uncle, a husband…because of my relationship with others. I can’t do anything, be anything without relationship. Living and living successfully requires the “I” to recognize that and to act accordingly.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

P.S. I’m old and blessed not of my own actions alone. It took the actions of God and everyone He put in my path to get me to this point. I couldn’t have done it alone. Confession: I’m still working on suppressing the wonderfulness of the “I”. It’s a life-long process.

A prayer to see and taste apples

Apple Tree Spring 2020

I can distinctly see and hear a prayer I made twenty-one years ago that came on the heels of receiving my multiple myeloma diagnosis. Of course, being a new patient, I had no idea of the possibility of being around today. In the solitude of our bedroom, I asked God that I be allowed to live to see all of my children grow into adulthood. My oldest was twenty at the time, the middle child was eleven and the youngest was eight. That prayer was answered. Not only do I have three grown children to love, but I also have seven grandchildren and two great grandchildren. This is a far different picture than the fleeting comment I made to myself back in the early seventies while I was in college. Then I couldn’t see myself with children, and I said I wouldn’t have any. I think the struggles my mom experienced rearing my sibling and I convinced me that I didn’t have the strong stuff for being a parent.

I know this might sound impious, but when I prayed that prayer twenty-one years ago, I was setting a goal for God, or maybe for myself. It couldn’t have been for myself because I had no power to make it happen. Somehow, I felt that living toward a point in my future gave me something to journey to. I would do all within my meager means: follow doctor’s orders, eat right, exercise, be available for any new treatments that could prolong my life despite the horrible disease that had invaded my body. Of course, my efforts paled in comparison to what God would do. Setting a goal for God, sounds silly on the surface doesn’t it; however, isn’t that what we do when we ask for something from Him?

Two years ago, I was out at a garden nursery looking for some plants to start the annual spring sprucing up of our place. We live in one of those neighborhoods where builders bulldozed all the trees and erected houses. I’ve always thought that was a little shortsighted. Home buyers had to plant trees after moving into a house if they wanted the beauty and shade that comes with them. We had moved from an older neighborhood with an abundance of trees before buying this place. The fall of every year presented me with more leaves to rake than I could before winter approached. I would find myself finishing up a few leaves in the coming spring. The thought of having to do that in our new place was too much, so no planting of trees for me. Well, while at the nursery, I spotted some young apple tree seedlings.

Apple Tree Spring 2021

Something came over me when I saw the apple tree seedlings. I thought at that moment: Here’s another opportunity to present God with another goal. I’m getting on up in age now, and I often wonder how all the medications I’m taking to fight the cancer is taking a toll on my body. However, through it all, I’m convinced that God is keeping me. With that faithful understanding, I prayed: Father, I’m going to buy one of these seedlings, plant it in our back yard and I ask that you bless me to see it produce apples. I want to see the fruit and taste it. I later found out that apple trees take anywhere from six to ten years to bear fruit, after planting the tree. Ten more years of productive living sounds great for an old multiple myeloma warrior like me. A retrospective of my life shows me that God has been providing fruits for me to enjoy on enumerable occasions.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

Nobody said the pandemic was over

Lately the news has been disheartening, as usual. Stories about the rise in gun violence across America, in small towns and large metropolitan swaths, have caused me to ask the same old question: will we ever embrace peace? Currently, it seems as if the last year and a half of dealing with the pandemic has fueled folks up with frustrations of all kinds. Tolerance levels are at their lowest. Any little act, any little remark can cause some of us to suffer an emotional eruption, spewing a variety of violent acts, resulting in bodily harm or worse death.

Recent news has reported that there’s an unwelcome resurgence of covid-19 numbers. The Delta variant, more virulent than its older cousin, is causing tallies to rise in my state. The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences has reopened its covid-19 care area, preparing for an expected influx of covid-19 patients.

Arkansas and other contiguous states Louisiana and Mississippi have some of the lowest vaccination rates in the country. For whatever reason, some people just don’t see the need to get a covid-19 vaccination. I read an article in our state’s largest newspaper this morning about a young mother who just had her first child. See saw no need to get the covid-19 vaccine, contracted the disease while carrying her child. She almost lost her life. Her baby is still in the hospital.

People across America are anxious to get back out there and start trying to reclaim some degree of the normalcy they enjoyed back in 2019. They want to go to movies, parks, museums and all the places where public fun is had. The politicians and businesspeople are hankering to accommodate all who want to get back out there, regardless of what dangers might await an anxious pubic.

Suffice it to say, Chris and I haven’t been rushing to assist in filling the restaurants, movie houses, and other commercial establishments here in Little Rock that seem to bring such joy to many folks. Amazon has become a good friend over the last year. Of course, even purchasing stuff online that we probably don’t need, since we’re not going to many places, seems a bit wasteful. However, one thing has been made clear to us and probably to many Americans is that we don’t have to leave the house to purchase many of the things we want and need.

Out of all the things have been going on the last few months or so, one thing has been quite impressive, the short development time for delivering vaccines for the virus. As soon as the vaccines became available, we took them. We didn’t assume that because we were vaccinated, our masks could be discarded. That face covering is still attached to our faces whenever we find ourselves in a public place. We’ve both had covid. No one needs to convince us that being safe versus sorry is wise.

A few days ago, I had to take the car I drive to have the air conditioning repaired. When I drove into the service center, the first thing I noticed was that no one, customers or employees, were wearing a mask. I might have looked strange, but that was okay. Everyone in the place was conducting themselves as if the pandemic were over.

It looks like covid-19 will be around for a while yet. It also looks like our behavior will assist in making  that so.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

What’s going on?

The title of this piece is taken straight from the 1970 song by the late, great Marvin Gaye. I can in no way stake claim to it. For those of you who are familiar with the lyrics, Marvin goes through a litany of social ills being experienced by the world at the time: too many mothers crying, too many brothers dying, picket lines, picket signs, young people being judged for having long hair, punishment being brutally meted out, no communication to find common ground for reasoning…

To those of us who have open ears and eye, the ancient scriptural saying of there’s nothing new under the sun is brought home, if we live beyond 40. History teaches us that we rarely learn the lessons life places directly in our path. Whenever I listen to Marvin Gaye’s song it’s as if all the pain, confusion and social dysfunction of that time is being recycled. Or maybe I’m not taking a broad enough view of things. Maybe things have improved just this side of enough. What do you think?

I’ve witnessed a lot of suffering in my lifetime, too much of it caused by hatred of others, insensitivity to the needs of others, and just downright ignorance of who the person is who’s been before you for years. Oftentimes, we want from others what we’re too afraid to give: a smile, a few minutes of dedicated listening, a moment when the person you’re perfunctorily socializing with can truly feel that you see them. When you see someone, you’ve intentionally allowed each word, each communicative movement they exhibit to paint a picture of who they are, who they want you to perceive about them. As I tap my keyboard, I must confess that I’m a long way from being good at what I’m talking about, most of us are guilty as sin in this area. However, are we supposed to reach a point of perfection at this stuff? Isn’t it supposed to be a process marked by mile markers of improvement along life’s journey? After all, we can’t take a one-size, one-model approach to dealing with our human counterparts. Right?

When we see someone, we connect with them and we realize they are mothers, fathers siblings and that they bleed, as do we. These folks who serve familial roles, also serve in sundry roles, view the world through various lenses, heck they even brush their teeth differently. Given that diversity, shouldn’t each of us grant each of them, when we come in contact, the amount of dignity and respect we would demand for ourselves?

How does this headline grab you: Swimming caps for natural black hair ruled out of Olympic Games? Yeah, I know this probably doesn’t rise to the level of contention Marvin was singing about in his song, but something tells me that a lot of time and energy is going to spent on this decision. I don’t know why, exactly, the Olympic officials decided to ban swim caps that are made specifically for black hair; however, consider this: the Spedo50 caps traditionally worn were designed for white swimmers to keep their hair from flowing into their face while swimming (Dannielle Obe, founding member of the Black Swimming Association). Some Black swimmers hair grows up and out, requiring a differently designed cap to prevent it from interfering with the aerodynamics of moving through the water in the most efficient manner.

Fifty years after Marvin’s classic song, we still spend too much time on issues that will never build us up.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.