When I dropped my daughter off at school yesterday, I noticed that another parent had pulled her car to the side and was standing in front of it. After a moment, I realized she was taking a picture of the morning sun, just visible through a swirl of heavy mist. It made me smile, and I thought about how many more moments like that are captured nowadays. It used to be that only professional photographers and tourists carried cameras with them at all times, but now just about everyone with a cell phone has a camera in pocket or purse.
Last week, my siblings and helped my mother clean her garage. She has mobility issues and supervised the entire process without leaving the living room. Using an iPad, we consulted with her about where she wanted us to work, what to do with specific items, even how to arrange things to her liking. Someone would snap photos and take the iPad to her so she could see what we were doing and what we had questions about. She was able to see the garage without leaving her armchair and view the contents of containers without us having to drag them into the house. It was brilliantly simple and efficient.
As cool as the technology behind these moments is, I’m reminded that it’s not the gadgets that makes our lives better but the way we use them. At this time of year especially, I’m grateful when something slows me down and focuses my attention on what is useful rather than what is wanted. It’s easy to get caught up in the desire to fulfill every wish, no matter how casual. Gift-giving can be a kind of power trip, and our addictive human response to a head rush of that nature quickly leads to rampant consumerism.
The real miracle of that spontaneous sunrise photo shoot or my family’s garage-cleaning did not lie in the technology employed in either instance. It lay instead in the human responses: wonder at the beauty of the world and a desire to share it; recognition of need and a desire to include another more fully in the solution.