This past weekend I had the great privilege of attending the wedding of my dear friend and college roommate in beautiful Colorado. She had longed for and prayed for the right man for so many years and watching her walk down the aisle to her groom was such a beautiful reminder of God’s goodness. It was an amazing celebration of love and I could not be happier for the newlyweds. But, as lovely as that all was, it’s simply the backdrop for my story today.
The day of the wedding I found that I had enough time to do a little bit of shopping and when my stomach began to grumble I stopped to grab a bite to eat at a place called ‘Mimi’s Cafe’. They don’t have these in Oregon but they do in California and it was one of our favorite places to go when we lived there back in the day.
I know that a lot of people don’t really like eating at a restaurant by themselves but I honestly don’t mind it. I had a book with me and it felt like such a luxury to be sitting there reading while enjoying a yummy meal and the company of some good characters who had a serious mystery to solve.
Now, maybe it’s just me, but when I’m by myself without the distractions of family or friends, I become very aware of what is happening around me. And, as I waited for my food to arrive, I couldn’t help but glance around the room and make some observations.
At first, what I saw filled me with such a deep sense of sadness.
Behind me, a family sat at a table talking and eating but when a phone rang (very loudly!) the dad proceeded to not only take the call but to chat and laugh (also very loudly) with the caller for a considerable amount of time while his family sat quietly next to him receiving loud and clear the message that whoever was on the other end of that call was more important than the people right there in the room with him, including the other restaurant patrons.
Next to me, a couple who I’m guessing to be in their 70’s sat next to each other and didn’t speak for the entire meal. Instead, the were both completely engrossed in their phones. From where I sat, I could see that they were on their social media pages and it was obvious that instead of engaging with the person right there next to them, they would rather engage with people in a virtual world.
Across the way, I could see into the restaurant lobby where people waited to be called to their tables. Every single child was on an electronic device as they waited. Every.single.one. And, when the hostess called their names and began escorting them to their seats, the kids remained glued to the screens as they walked to the table. They couldn’t be bothered to even pause for a moment to have their eyes up and engaging with those around them. The life skill of making eye contact and acknowledging those around you was nowhere to be found.
And there was this moment, this one horrible moment, where I just felt so disheartened and hopeless. Is this where we are now as a culture? I read all of the articles and participate in conversations about this and face the struggle of it in my own home as we raise our children so it wasn’t like this was a new-to-me phenomenon I was witnessing.
But, there was something about sitting there all alone in the middle of that restaurant and watching it unfolding before my eyes. Young, old and in the middle. No age group was immune.
I looked down at my plate and took a deep breath and had this one fleeting moment where I imagined myself standing on top of the table right there in ‘Mimi’s Cafe’ and shouting at the top of my lungs, “WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU??!!!”
But then….then…it happened.
A young man who looked to be in his early 20’s and his grandmother were seated at a table nearby. I watched and I waited. Would he pull his phone out of his pocket? Would he give into the temptation to make sure that he wasn’t missing out on anything on Instagram? Would he reply to the texts and answer the phone calls?
But, something magical happened that day in Mimi’s Cafe. A young man and his grandmother sat next to each other talking, laughing, listening, engaging. They looked each other in the eye, they leaned in to hear each other better. And not a single electronic device ever appeared. I couldn’t help but feel my eyes begin to water as I thought about how much this lunch must have meant to that grandmother. And how someday, that young man will look back and be so grateful that he was making cherished memories with a woman who so obviously loved him rather than staring at a screen.
I lowered my eyes before they could see me staring and start to worry about the crazy lady sitting all alone and as I did I was able to get glimpses of other scenes unfolding before me.
In the corner of the room, a mom sat with her two sons (probably elementary and middle school ages) and none of them had phones or tablets either. They laughed and talked and seemed to be having such a great time together.
Next to me, two friends chatted up a storm and as they rose to leave I overheard one say to the other, “Thank you so much for listening to me. It means so much to me.”
In the midst of what had felt so hopeless, I was getting to witness moments of hope.
It was as if these people were beacons of light in the darkness and didn’t even know it. They just made the decision that their loved ones sitting there with them were more important than anything happening on a screen. Right there in Mimi’s Cafe, I observed hope. I observed engagement and connection and community. And I saw the difference on the faces of those who had broken bread together and invested in each other’s lives versus the ones who simply sat side by side and only engaged with an online world. I can’t help but think that some will look back on that lunch as meaningful while others won’t even remember it.
Not too long ago, one of our pastors was teaching on the touchy subject of marijuana. Don’t worry, I’m not going to change the subject. 😉
But, one of the things he said resonated with me on such a deep level that I wrote it down on a scrap of paper and carry it in my purse.
He said, “Instead of trying to find more ways to escape, we need to find more ways to engage.”
Friends, our world needs this more than ever! We need to engage. We need to be more plugged into each other than we are to our devices. My observations in Mimi’s Cafe were just a microcosm of what is happening in our culture.
As I paid for my meal, I was so grateful for the opportunity I had to witness stories more powerful than anything I was reading in my book.
And I feel even more determined than ever to be that hope. To be engaged and present.
Will you join me?
Lin Mossgrove says
What a beautiful way to start my morning! Thank you for a glimpse of hope and love in action!
This is a very meaningful observation and I will remember to “engage”. Thank you.
Oh, Vanessa, this is so well written! My husband and I talk about this very thing often! (I think we dine out too often but empty nesting sure can be fun, haha.) There are times when every table we see are like that – and oh, the families, it’s heart-breaking, isn’t it?
It’s funny but sometimes my husband and I text back and forth because he has trouble hearing me in louder places (like a certain country steakhouse he loves with his whole soul,) so I text him things I can’t yell too loudly. : – )
The story of the young man and his grandmother reminded me of the wonderful book The Cup of Christmas Tea. It’s one of my favorites and I read it every year and it always makes me cry.
Love this post. God bless you.
Not trying to hijack your post, but I’ve been “telling” A Cup of Christmas Tea to loyal friends every Christmas Eve for over 20 years. I missed last year because I was undergoing chemo. It’s nice to know someone else loves it too. I had to practice telling it for a long time before I could do it without crying. It always brings tears to some of the listeners.
doris hall says
That happened to me an old lady My grandson took me for a ride on the golf cart in the countryside at my daughter’s house. He was talking loud to me his phone kept ringing and he would talk louder. Then when he finished his story he took his phone from his pocket and I thought Oh no, he is going to ignore me now and talk on his phone. But I got kind of teary eyed even now I do, as he removed his phone from his pocket and turned his phone off. I love all my grandchildren very much, but my heart wells up with pride now when I think of my 17 yr old grandson thinking I was more important than his friends on the phone. It has been 9 yrs ago he probally don’t even remember and never missed anything out of his life from those ignored calls But it sure enriched this old lady’s life… amen. DO not forget to go to you tube and listen to our songs [All In The Family Singers] please leave us a like or thumbs up… I enjoyed all the reading here story and comments Have A BLESSED DAY ALL OF YOU….
Confessions of a Plate Addict says
I have been at this very same point…so sad to see the families around me not even talking to each other. But I have one happy thing to report…that grandmother could have been me! 🙂 My sweet grandson never even thinks of taking out his phone when we are out to eat together and it means so much to me! You are right…there is hope!
I’m with you wholeheartedly Vanessa
Thank you for this lovely story, I have witnessed this numerous times also and have so wanted to stand on the table and do the same thing. I dont even take my phone out of my purse, when dining with family or friends. We all need to be more engaged.
Julie Briones says
Loved this, Vanessa… I actually was brought to tears. Actually, happy tears, when you described the encouraging scenes you witnessed. Thanks for sharing. I’ll be sharing you link on my FB page. Hugs!
Norma Rolader says
Oh my how precious …I try to tell my girls and grandson We need to visit without the electronics LOL!!
Mary-Ann (from Canada!) says
Vanessa, what a wonderful post today! It really bothers me, too, when I see people out for lunch/dinner at a restaurant and each of them checking their messages! Just don’t know what has to take priority over being out for a nice dinner and good conversation. I think that restaurants need to have a sign that says: “WE DO NOT TOLERATE ANY ELECTRONIC DEVICES IN THIS RESTAURANT WHILE DINING — JUST ENJOY THE COMPANY YOU ARE WITH!”.
Have a blessed week!
Thank you for the reminder to be more engaged and present in the lives of our loved ones!
Shirley @Housepitality Designs says
Loved reading this post. Your pastor’s quote is very thought provoking. Something we all need to do!
I, too, have seen this (and heard the loud phone voices!) over and over in restaurants, doctors office, mother’s walking their babies, even people who are supposed to be at work. Nothing surprises me more than to see 5 or 6 pre-teens walking down the street together whilst each one is staring down at their phone! I remember how great it was to just hang out with friends and giggle and talk incessantly. It makes me so sad too. My son grew up in what is now referred as the loneliest generation in our county’s history but I fear the generation being raised today will be referred to as the most ignored generation.