A reader sent me the following story called, “The Stranger.”
“When I was young, my Dad met a stranger who was new to our town. Dad was fascinated with this enchanting newcomer and soon invited him to live with our family. We quickly accepted the stranger and he became part of our family.
“As I grew up, I never questioned his place in my family. In my young mind, he had a special niche. My parents were complemental instructors: Mom taught me good from evil, and Dad taught me to obey. However, the stranger was our storyteller. He would keep us spellbound for hours with adventures, mysteries and comedies.
“If I wanted to know anything about politics, history or science, he always knew the answers about the past, understood the present and could even predict many future events. He took my family to the first major league ball game. He made me laugh and cry. This stranger never stopped talking, but Dad didn’t seem to mind.
“Sometimes, Mom would get up quietly while the rest of us were shushing each other so we could listen to what he had to say. She would go to the kitchen for peace and quiet. (I wonder now if she ever prayed for the stranger to leave.)
“Dad insisted that we uphold certain moral convictions, but the stranger never felt obligated to honor them. Our parents did not allow profanity in our home – not from us, our friends or any visitors. Our longtime visitor, however, got away with four-letter words that burned my ears, made my dad squirm, and my mother blush.
“My Dad did not permit the liberal use of alcohol. The stranger regularly encouraged us to try it. He made cigarettes look cool, cigars manly, and pipes distinguished. He talked much too freely about sex. His comments were sometimes blatant, sometimes suggestive, and generally embarrassing.
“I now know that the stranger strongly influenced my early ideas about relationships. Repeatedly, he opposed the values of my parents, yet they seldom rebuked him and never asked him to leave.
“More than 50 years have passed since the stranger moved in with our family. He has blended right in and is not nearly as fascinating as he was. Still, if you could walk into my parents’ den today, you would still find him sitting over in his corner, waiting for someone to listen to him talk and look at his pictures.
“His name? We just call him ‘TV.’ He now has a wife. We call her ‘Computer.'”
Technological devices such as televisions, computers, cell phones, etc., are part of our modern life and have been helpful in many ways. However, they do have a downside.
For example, computers can help us communicate with more people but they can also be a barrier from more personal communications.
I wonder to what extent did television commercials play a part in our present financial crisis. The desire to have more “things” that we see on TV ads may have contributed to so many people in our country going into serious financial debt. Television can promote greed. We can forget the difference between needs and wants.
Also we can identify ourselves with “things” – a new car, a certain lifestyle, or the latest hand-held communication device. The temptation is to think, “I will be important if I have …”
We must never define ourselves by anything outside us. E.E. Cummings said, “To be nobody but yourself, in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle that any human being can fight – and never stop fighting.”
God has made all of us after God’s image and likeness, not anything or anybody else’s.