Thursday, July 18, 2013

Yes, I Hear You Now!

So my cell-phone contract expires in nine days, permitting me what should be a no-brainer option: get another iPhone 4S or upgrade to the iPhone 5. I mean, I can justify having a fancy smart phone, right? I'm on the road a lot and frequently respond to correspondence via my phone. I make use of its GPS so I don't need a separate unit in the car. It holds my calendar and appointment book. It carries my Starbucks card. It even lets me play "Whirly Word" for hours on end and, even more tantalizingly, promises something called "Candy Crush."

Yet, I hesitate.

I remember reading Rodney Stark's The Rise of Christianity and I recently read a review of Peter Brown's Through the Eye of a Needle about the emergence and establishment of the early Christian Church. One point on which they converge is their observation about a major cultural shift enacted by the early Christians. Whereas Romans would contribute money in order to show their power and affluence, the Christians funneled their resources through the churches to tend to the needs of the poor. Rather than filtering it through unwieldy bureaucracies, the churches could deliver relief and resources to people with greater expediency. Giving money to the poor went from being a sign of superiority to a symbol of support.

What has this to do with a cell-phone?

I think my bill runs $79.00 a month. It's the only phone I use and I've had the number since 2006, so it's the only way my family and friends have to contact me (other than email). Indeed, I unplugged my landline because it took up too much space on my desk! I travel enough, both for the Jesuits and for music, that a phone is indispensable. Yet do I need the latest make? The snazziest model?

If I went with a phone that ran, say, $50.00 a month, and gave the remainder to the poor, that would be almost $360.00 a year. That might not seem like a great deal but, if you think about it, imagine if a few hundred, or a few thousand, people got together and made a sacrifice of trendiness so that others might eat?

One could start a whole new movement, calling it "Yes, I Hear You Now!"  funded wholly by people deciding not to go with the latest, speediest, model of phone and opting for something a little less flashy in order that others might eat a little more each day.

For Jesuits and students of Jesuit schools, instead of being "Men and Women for 4S" we could really become "Men and Women for Others."

Ah, perhaps it's just pre-retreat jitters. I go on my annual retreat next week and in the week leading up to each year's retreat, I tend to do a lot of soul-searching. Nevertheless, I'm glad I'll not be able to renew my contract until after retreat.

I need some time to make sure I can hear who is on the other line, to make sure I'm listening carefully, and that I am free enough to respond.

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