By the Rev. Tim Schenck
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No, I didn’t drop my cellphone in the toilet. That’s the good news. I did, however, leave it in a cab, which is basically the same thing, minus the “yuck” factor. After presenting a couple of workshops at a church conference in Virginia, I flew into Boston’s Logan Airport and hopped a taxi back to Hingham. It was late, I was tired, I went to pay, I put my black phone down on the black vinyl seat, and — oh there’s no justifying it — I’m an idiot.
The irony is that the conference was all about digital faith formation — in other words, exploring ways to connect, grow, and share our faith using technology. There’s nothing quite like being cast into the outer darkness of non-connectivity mere hours after encouraging others to use social media in creative, life-giving ways. Practicing what you preach is tricky when your “pulpit” suddenly disappears.
I realized I’d forgotten it about five minutes after I got dropped off. I called the cab company, lodged a missing item report with the governmental agency in charge of such things, and didn’t hear anything back. Ever.
I can’t say I was surprised, frankly. I guess I’m supposed to have great faith in human nature but, then again, I lived in New York City for six years, where lost items enter a black hole, if not a black market. Given the ever-rising income inequality that exists between the richest and poorest in our country, I can understand someone finding a relatively new iPhone 5 and selling it to supplement his income. I don’t condone it, but I understand it.
If the roles were reversed and I was eking out an existence, living paycheck to paycheck and had to drive rich people living in big houses to and from the airport everyday, I’m not sure what I’d do. I’d like to think my own moral compass would take over, but do any of us really know what we’d do if it was a choice between having your kids go to bed hungry or “doing the right thing”?
However, it’s not as if I was having these lofty thoughts about ethical conundrums in the immediate aftermath of my discovery. The thoughts I was having are not printable in a family publication such as this.
While I’ll never see that phone again, I did get a “new” one after a week and a half. My wife realized she was due for an upgrade and so she got an iPhone 5 and I got her hand-me-down iPhone 4. I’m not complaining, believe me. Even if I do have the most outdated phone in my entire household.
It’s amazing how we’ve come to take technology for granted. For the brief time I went without a phone, I felt out-of-sorts as I reached for my non-existent digital device numerous times per day. I swear I felt it vibrating or heard it ding on various occasions. I reached for it to take a picture of a gorgeous sunset over Nantasket Beach and realized I had to just enjoy the moment without sharing it with the world. I had to take it on faith that my teenage sons were OK at home without checking in with them (of course they were). And at one point I even had to ask someone for the time since my phone also serves as my watch.
I wish I could say it was spiritually refreshing to be without a phone, but it gave me more agita than peace. I’m not proud of this, and it likely means I need a vacation in an area without cell reception.
The Rev. Tim Schenck is Rector of the Episcopal Parish of St. John the Evangelist in Hingham, Massachusetts. Visit his blog Clergy Confidential at clergyconfidential.blogspot.com or follow him on Twitter at @FatherTim.
In Good Faith: Out of touch
By the Rev. Tim Schenck