Holiday Presence

With the holidays upon us, I am reminded of how incredibly meaningful it is to connect with the loved ones in our lives. And by connection, I don’t simply mean spending time with them; I am thinking more of engaging with one another.

In my reading lately, I’ve come across a couple of excerpts I thought I’d share here that illustrate my point precisely. In The Restless Heart: Finding Our Spiritual Home in Times of Loneliness, author Ronald Rolheiser writes: “With the ubiquity of cell phones, e-mail, instant messaging and voice mail, we are more connected than ever before. But chatter does not equal companionship and large networks do not eliminate the feeling of alienation.” In other words, it’s entirely possible to feel lonely in a crowded phone booth.

And elsewhere, commentator John R. Ehrenfeld writes: “We drive around talking into our phones, engrossed in conversation but absent from the rest of the world. The result is what Linda Stone, a former Microsoft researcher, calls ‘continuous partial attention.’ We lose our sense of engagement.”

The bottom line is that there is a big difference between being in touch with someone and being in tune with them. When all is said and done, technology can enable connectivity but it cannot ensure community. Therefore, the greatest gift we can give each other during the holidays, and year round, is being fully present during the time we spend together.