September 2017

Back in the day, when my children were small, I took pictures of them at various important intervals. In fact sometimes I would just take pictures of them because they were doing something I deemed to be adorable. I had no idea if the picture I snapped had captured the moment I was trying to capture, because at that time, all cameras had to use a thing called “film”—which had to be developed before they could be seen. So, I would have to use up the entire roll of film, roll it back into its little container, and head off to the drug store to have it developed. After a few days, I would pick up my pictures, and hope that I had at least gotten a few pictures worthy of sharing with the grandparents, or putting into a photo album.

I remember the excitement of opening the envelope with the pictures in it, and smiling at the successes, and sometimes the failure of my efforts. Pictures like the “First Day of School” were especially welcome by grandparents, but it sometimes took until October to get them sent off.

I was reminiscing about all of this recently as I was perusing Facebook. These days, we can take a picture, double check to see whether it is what we wanted it to look like, and post it to social media in the time it used to take me to push the button and advance the film to the next exposure. Facebook has become the new “family album.” In fact, even if you don’t even have to organize the pictures into albums—the magic and mysterious Oz behind the curtain will offer you a slide show of what happened on Monday, or the anniversary of friendship, or pictures taken and posted on the day of your birth. It is pretty amazing.

So, this week, I have enjoyed seeing dozens of “First Day of School” shots that remind me how quickly children grow up. And the privilege I feel at having a chance to share in those memories with their parents. I have enjoyed the vicarious pleasures of summer getaways to restful and/or exciting locations. I have marveled at first glances at college dorm rooms—that will never be as tidy as this moment in time. And I have been in awe that a friend traveling thousands of miles away can share her pilgrimage in real time.

Sometimes I miss the way things “used to be.” I miss the excitement of waiting for the photos, and quickly pulling them out of the envelope to see if what I thought I was captured, was indeed captured. I miss receiving those things called “letters” that were thick, because someone had enclosed pictures with their missive. But there is something to be said for the way we can share with many of our dear ones at once the fragile and ephemeral moments of life that we might not have had the time or energy to share “back in the day.”

I have a certain amount of ambivalence about the ubiquitous nature of social media. We are living in pretty negative times. Some people tend to use the internet as a bully pulpit, and it is tempting to just shut down and tune out. Where is basic human dignity and courtesy, anyway?  But, then there is the other side. I get to see the ongoing journeys of friends, of family, of colleagues, it gives me hope that maybe true connections are being made, even in a world of oversharing, overexposure, and friends who may need to set some better boundaries on who they share what with…

I often talk about the importance of stories. To me, everything really does come down to the stories. What story are we telling? What good word does the world need to hear? How can we make an impact in a world of brokenness, negativity and emotional and physical violence. We have the power to impact the shape of the story that is “out there” in the world. We have the tools. So let’s put it out there, friends—the first days, the good news, the joy, the power of love. Because if there was ever a time when the world need to hear a good story—it is now. And I’m not sure we can wait for the film to be developed.

Blessings in this day, and to quote my favorite podcast—“may you have a story worthy week!”

Pastor Nancy