By David DeWitt
When I was a teenager my family would sit down to Sunday dinner and my Dad would take the phone off the hook.
The teenagers would protest. “What if our friends try to call us?”
“They’ll call back,” he’d say.
“What if there’s an emergency?”
“Everyone’s eating dinner,” he’d say.
Sometimes he’d forget and the phone would ring. Then he would get this look of dread on his face.
My Dad hated answering the phone. When he did, he never sounded quite like himself. Kind of like someone who was speaking on the radio for the first time. A little nervous. A little unsure of what to say next.
So most of the time, he just didn’t answer the phone. Even if he was sitting right next to it. He would let it ring and ring until someone else would answer it while he went on reading his book or whatever.
If you asked him why he didn’t answer it, he would say: “I’m busy. If it’s important, they’ll call back.”
One time he took the phone off the hook and laid it on the kitchen counter just as we were sitting down to eat. It so happened that someone was calling at that very moment; my youngest sister’s boyfriend. The phone was right next to the kitchen table and he eavesdropped on our dinner conversation which, thankfully he wasn’t the subject of. That day anyway.
These days it’s not so easy to take the phone off the hook. There are all the screens. The phone, computer, TV, and tablets.
Screens are nearly inescapable. They’re in the grocery store, restaurants, even on the gas pumps.
But the most difficult to resist is the one in your pocket.
So when Erin said she wanted to do a screen less day of rest, a Sabbath of sorts, I felt more than a bit of apprehension.
“I’m pretty good at ignoring my phone already,” I said confidently.
“No, we have to be completely committed,” she insisted.
But it’s not about the screens really. It’s about all the things connected to the screens.
Things we should be monitoring in news. Important texts or emails. Our “community” on social media.
While these things all have their benefits they also connect us to the things that cause us stress.
So we had a little ceremony at sundown. We each wrote on a piece of paper all the things we were presently concerned about. Though we kept most of them private, Finn shared that he was worried the Sun might explode.
We lit some candles and placed the worry in the folded pieces of paper on our little alter that we put together just for the day of rest.
We turned off the phones and put them in a cabinet and turned off the computer.
I noticed a feeling similar to the ones I’d had so long ago when my Dad would take the phone off the hook.
The next day I admit, I woke up worrying that I might miss an important call or text.
But as the day wore on, we all seemed lighter and freer in a way I can only describe as better than vacation.
When we ended our day by burning the folded pieces of paper, there was a tinge of sadness in each of us. But with it came a vow to have screen less Sundays as often as we can.
P.S. The Sun did not explode.