Spiritually Speaking by Rev. JF Hudson: 3/14/11
Status (noun) 1. the position of an individual in relation to another or others
--Random House Dictionary
“The new electronic interdependence recreates the world in the image of a global village.” --Marshall McLuhan
Confession time. As of last Friday I like Facebook. There: I admit it. I’m a Facebook fan. OK: I maybe even love Facebook, especially that website’s feature which provides ongoing and up to the minute status updates on friends and family near and far. For the Facebook uninitiated, site members can post as often as they like on their Facebook web page, updating their “friends” about where they are, what they are doing, what is happening in their life, or what they think about this issue or that world or local event. Facebook aficionados post and that information is shared instantaneously with their cyber community. Most of the time these updates are like the gossip or personal chit chat our grandparents might have shared with neighbors while talking over the fence in the backyard or sharing a cup of coffee or a glass of beer with a friend. How the kids are doing in school. What’s up at work. Political ideas and debates. News about “so and so” who lives down the street. Like a digital living room, Facebook allows its users to connect, geography and distance no longer being a stumbling block to catching up and staying in touch.
For a longtime I was a reluctant, even mocking, Facebook user. Are any of us so “important” that we need to share right now with all our digital “friends”, the minutiae of daily life? Do my 161 “friends” really want to hear all the juicy details about the party I went to last Friday? The cornflakes I ate for breakfast? The latest diet I’m undertaking? The fact that a blue jay is slugging it out with a chickadee in my backyard bird feeder? But last week all that changed.
Friday morning, up at 6:30, and while surfing for news on the net, I first heard about the earthquake and tsunami which had struck Japan. Like all of us I was absolutely shocked and horrified by the extent of the destruction there: the suffering, the mass human dislocation, the huge size of that disaster. But this time, for the first time I can remember, this catastrophe was personal. For one of my oldest friends in the world, Suzy, along with her husband and two children, live in Tokyo. I visited them last summer and fell in love with that amazing island nation, reaffirmed as well how important Suzy is in my life as a dear friend. And now I wondered, even panicked: “Is she ok?” “Did the quake damage their downtown Tokyo apartment?” “What was her status?” “Was the family safe?”
Immediately logging into my Facebook account I saw Suzy’s profile picture, along with these sobering but reassuring words in her status update. “Our clan is all ok.” WHEW! Later throughout the day and into that night, Suzy, who was on a day hike in a town outside of the city when the quake struck, posted ongoing updates on her whereabouts, using her I-Phone. Suzy was sitting in a massive traffic jam of cars stuck on the road attempting to get into Tokyo. But through the technological miracle of her cell phone connecting digitally to Facebook, she was able to tell all of her friends, her family, her loved ones, that she was OK and on the way back home. That her daughter and husband were safe and together. That her son made it back to Tokyo after a harrowing five hour ride on his school bus. And then finally, some twelve hours after Suzy had first posted her status, her husband Greg reported in his Facebook status update these God blessed words. “She finally arrived around 2 am.”
So here’s my testimony, my witness, as one of 500 million plus Facebook members. I’m now a convert, a true believer even, in this post-modern amazing cyber neighborhood, where with the click of a keystroke, I can know the “status” of the people that I love the most. I rest a bit easier in the knowledge that my good friend, though some 6,700 miles distant, can reach out to me as if right in my living room, sipping coffee and catching up. As a person of faith one of truths I trust most deeply, is that God, though the Creator of the universe, this God cares deeply about my status and the status of every single child of God. No exceptions. No one left out. In Tokyo. In Boston. Every where. So in faith I am thankful to God for technology like Facebook which connects, updates, knits together and brings us all closer as a world. The world truly is a global village: that vision has come true.
So if you see my profile on Facebook and feel so moved, “friend” me. I’ll accept. Seems to me in a world which so often lately is unpredictable, is rocked by social upheaval and even disaster, we need all the friends that we can get. We need to care more deeply about the status of each and every one of us. Just don’t ask me to play Farmville or Mafia Wars! See you online.
The Reverend John F. Hudson is Senior Pastor of the Pilgrim Church, United Church of Christ, in Sherborn (pilgrimsherborn.org). If you have a word or idea you’d like defined in a future column or have comments, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org or in care of The Dover-Sherborn Press (Dover-Sherborn@cnc.com).