Beyond the Phone
Updated: Feb 17, 2020
I step outside and greet a frigid February air with steamy waves of white that escape my lips. The warmth of lungs, overtaken by the startling chill, submit in welcoming acceptance. As I intentionally breathe deep, to feel the contrasting temperatures, I am reminded that I am alive.
It's a day like any other day. A busy eight hours of work lie ahead. I join my fellow commuters and take my seat on the bus that will whisk me away to the heart of the city. By the time we reach the West Seattle Bridge it is people-filled to standing room only. There will be no more stops now until we reach our destination.
As I look around, this picture is strikingly similar to what I see all around me... times fifteen. Every day it's the same. No one speaks. No one makes eye contact. No one even looks around. All these people held hostage by electronics in hands and ears. It captivates the eyes, the thoughts. They are slaves to their own devices - a bondage they've actually asked for.
And I am definitely guilty, but there was a day when I looked up and saw this and felt my heart sink to my belly. I was eerily alone on a bus filled with people. It was like being surrounded by a crowd under some peculiar hypnotic state.
It was then that I felt challenged to put the phone down. Most days I do put it down now. Instead, I start my days on the bus looking beyond the phone and connecting with God and the gifts he places in front of me each day. There is no information on the internet that holds more value.
Typically I use my phone during this time only to take notes of what I see and sometimes I listen to music. So much to see! So much to be in awe of. So many gifts. And I thank Him, deep in my heart I thank Him. Every day I do this. I find that it sets the tone for my entire day and holds so much value.
And it goes something like this...
First light has been announcing sun's pending arrival with a gradually building crescendo. I am delighted by charcoal clouds hemmed in horizon's rose-gold kiss. With anticipation of its grand entrance, the early dawn-lit Duwamish River dances in a gown of shimmery midnight blue. The tops of towering leafless trees hold nests large enough to wonder if they are eagle havens. Freedom's red, white and blue symbol flaps high above the Starbucks headquarters building, and I feel a sense of pride. Precious hymns of old have been filling my ears and soul and I am in awe of their historical meaning. It is Well with My Soul... and although I'm mourning a loss, it IS well with my soul. I close my sleep-deprived eyes and say a silent prayer of thanks for the gift of rest-giving eyelids, if only for a moment.
As we inch our way into the city's sprawling center, the skyscraper eclipsed streets grow dim. I ineffectively resist entrance and feel a touch of discontent to be leaving the light of sunrise behind. Surrendering to the inevitable and initial objection, I find enjoyment in this segment of my commute as well.
First Stop: Pioneer Square
This area is rich with history and beautifully constructed buildings adorned with artistic embellishments. The two structures above are my favorites. The area is also home to totems, sculptures, unique signs, shops, restaurants, galleries and more. Today new art displayed in boastful gallery windows capture my attention.
Red and gold!!! This is new today! So regal!
Lips curl slowly into a pleased smile at the sight of this new gift.
Mornings in Pioneer Square actually look something more like this than the first photo above though. Most people might shudder and think, how sad. Today, however, what I witness causes me to question if it's always sad, or simply different than society values.
Whichever it is, my attention is drawn to a weary-eyed woman who has temporarily laid claim to the intricate covered shelter. This is surely a coveted space to provide a level of elemental protections in this brick and cement-clad environment. Her body is bundled in tattered bulky layers. A frumpy hat insulates her ears from the cold. A small wire cart rests beside her filled with bags of belongings. Overnight bedding lies nearby and a congregation of pigeons and seagulls have gathered around her. I watch as more swoop in and make landfall at her feet to greedily greet her. Fingertip gloved hands reach into a small brown paper bag, producing daily bread for these feathered creatures. With generosity and visible glee she gives again and again and again until there's no more to give.
And I wonder... did she not need this food for herself? Was it just more joy to give than to receive? Has she learned the value of being content and thankful with little? Is there something I can learn from her? It may appear insignificant to some, but my heart is warmed by this selfless scene of a woman with virtually nothing seemingly giving all that she had and finding joy in it. A notable impression is made by this sad, yet heart-warming scene.
I am under no illusions that she has an easy life or that I would like to trade places with her. Still, I admire her ability to adapt to her situation and find joy in the "small," to give with little to give. I am thankful for her example, and I will offer a prayer for her in exchange...
THIS... all of this, is worth putting my phone down for. There is so much I would have missed this past year if I'd not accepted the challenge. The gifts he gives cannot be bought, but oh what a treasure they are... and if someday I'm faced with Weary-eyed Woman's hardship, I pray that I will always honor him and find joy no matter what.
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.