It is early Saturday morning, November 1, and it already looks like a blustery, cold weekend. As I’m writing, one “like” after another pops up on my FaceBook page, and my attention is continually diverted to review the latest comment. My daughter posted a picture of my adorable grandchildren dressed up for Halloween. Nonna had to get in on the fun and dressed up as Cruella DeVille–no costume needed, just a brush of the hair to expose the white streak that has been invading my dark head of hair over the last few years. It worked, and the “likes” were popping up by the second.
Louie, however, was unimpressed. As he sat in his favorite chair and sighed, he looked at me with those big brown eyes. “Mom, remember when the world was silent?”
“Hmmm,” not wanting to be distracted from my computer, “No, Lou, I don’t remember any such thing.”
“Well, I sure do.” He sighed, deeper this time. “Long, long ago when you picked up your new phone and it wasn’t working quite right, you had to go without it for a day, remember?”
I continued typing, “It was actually just three weeks ago and it wasn’t working at all!” I stopped typing and looked at him. I grimaced as I thought back on that time. If there is ever an area where my patience is tested, it is in the area of technology. I consider myself very proficient in understanding technology, an understanding that dates back to my college days of learning the intricate, technical design of radiology and nuclear medicine diagnostic imaging equipment. I expect technology to work well but it will never work fast enough for me, no matter how advanced it becomes. When I picked up my new phone, it had several issues, and I could not return to the store until the next day. So I had to do without it for a day.
“I remember we took long walks together, we talked, and you actually looked at me when you talked to me,” Louie observed.
“Lou, aren’t you being a little dramatic? I take you on long walks now, right?” DING, another “like”, and I’m right back on my computer, laughing out loud at the latest snide comment on the post.
He leaned back in the chair and sighed as he longingly looked out the window. “I rest my case!”
“Awww, Lou, come on! It’s not that bad,” I said, not looking up. “I know I’m on my computer a lot, but I’m a writer and that means computer time.”
He then sat straight up and looked at me with an intense, soul-searching look. “It’s not about the computer, Mom, or the likes or the funny comments.”
I closed my computer and sat for a minute looking at my pup. After staring intently at one another, I suddenly understood the message his body language and facial expressions were trying to relay to me. Yes, Louie, I remember when I didn’t have my phone for a day and it seemed the world was silent and it was wonderful. That time of disconnection was a welcome reprieve from the bombardment of social media
Today, people will write just about anything in their posts, articles and advertisements. Truth seems to be a commodity that is regarded as silly, or worse, not necessary. A business can tout how healthy their culture is yet the only person giving such a testimony is the new hire that has been there for two months.
How easy it is to get caught up with hoping people “like” us. Our innate desire to be connected is glossed over by what we want people to see and in turn, what we hope they like. I’ve shared this before yet so many times I’ve seen FaceBook posts that I know are anything but true. I cherish the posts that are real and authentic. I love the pictures of my family, friends and loved ones and following stories such as Lauren Hill and Devon and Leah Still. But oh, how I cringe at the boastfulness of others.
Over time, I’ve come to realize that people have a foundational need to be relational, authentic and transparent. Simply putting on a mask, writing a “boast post,” and becoming “known” does not make you a likable person or a good leader. People clicking “like” does not mean people like you. It’s all about the need for true authentic relationships at the very core of our being. When that is missing with our family, loved ones and teams, and even with people we don’t know well, success is fleeting.
I looked at Louie, who was determined to win the stare down. “Let’s go on a long walk, Lou!” And with that Louie jumped to his feet, happily bounded down the steps, tail wagging, tongue hanging out, and headed toward the door. He is a constant reminder of the need for truth and from him I have learned how refreshing and freeing the truth can be.
NOTE: A dear friend of mine eulogized her 93 year old father this past Sunday. In his lifetime, he had lived through the depression and was a hero in World War II. For a man who did not have social media to tout his character, he was honored and well remembered for living a truly authentic life. No truer words were spoken than those from a poem his daughter tearfully read:
“The World Needs Men …
Who cannot be bought.
Whose word is their bond.
Who put character above wealth.
Who are larger than their vocation.
Who do not lose their identity in a crowd.
Who will be as honest in small things as in great things.
Who will make no compromise with wrong.
Whose ambitions are not confined to their own selfish desires.
Who will not say they do it because “everyone else does it.”
Who are true to their friends throughout good times and bad … in adversity as well as in prosperity.
Who do not believe that shrewdness and cunning are the best qualities for winning success.
Who are not ashamed to stand for the truth when it is unpopular.
Who can say “no” with emphasis although the rest of the world says “yes.”
Robert E. Barnhart, Dad, was that kind of man.”