Where Did It All Go Wrong?

Phillip and I finished watching “Stranger Things” on Netflix, which was actually quite enjoyable. It was a great homage to 80’s Stephen King and Wes Craven films, with a dollop of “Aliens,” a pinch of “Goonies,” and a tad “E.T.” We enjoyed it very much…..however, there was a moment where we saw the 13 year old boys riding around on their bicycles and I remarked, “Wow, you don’t see that anymore, do you?”

Oh, I fondly remember being a 13 year old boy, riding my bike joyously with my friends. My bike had a little shield on the front that mimicked “Knightrider,” and the reflector would light up as the peddles were spun….and I, in such beautiful imagery, would sound out, “wee woo….wee wooo” as though my bike had become Kitt. I remember it wasn’t unusual to ask your mom if your friend could stay for dinner. Never a problem. But, that world doesn’t exist anymore, does it? We no longer have boys that build forts, children that no longer walk themselves to school, and lemonade stands are now shut down by city councils for lack of “regulatory practices and lack of proper permitting.”

Where did it all go wrong? When did we stop spending time with our neighbors? When did schools start to look more like prisons, with fences, barbed wire, and metal detectors? When did we decide it was more acceptable to “friend” someone on Facebook, rather than look a stranger in the eye on the street and say, “Good morning,” and when did a smile become a moment of harassment? When did penmanship become a thing of the past? When did the smell of books become archaic? And when did being bitchy become fashionable, and kindness considered weakness?

Do you remember life before everything was streaming and hash tagged? When we all gathered as a family in front of the television to watch a program, because if you missed it, then you just simply missed it? Do you remember doing that with TV trays and spending time with your family, laughing and loving and talking? When did that end, and when did everyone in a home decide to start sitting in separate rooms on separate devices?

With all the madness in the world, I can only attest that it ended when boys no longer rode bikes in their neighborhoods, when we no longer spoke to each other, but began texting each other; when we decided it was better to spend hours on social media, rather than hours with friends; when we decided everyone was suspicious, including members of our family; when our accomplishments were measured by our “likes” on Facebook, rather than our charity.

I heard a gentleman remark once on the fall of the great societies of the past. When asked, “What do you think caused those civilizations to fail,” he responded, “They allowed their technology to exceed their morality.”

With all the madness in the world, and with what time I have in it, that will be my mission: that morality will always supersede this strange technology we live in. You, your feelings, your existence is more important than tweets.

IMG_1234Set your device down, build a fort in the living room with pillows, watch a movie, and share a meal with your family. Say “Good morning,” to the next person you pass on the street, and smile at the next possible opportunity for any reason whatsoever. This life is short. Don’t live it online. Live it in real time, with other people. Spend your best moments in the real world. Though we have connected with each other on the internet, we should never forget, that our feelings for each other rests deeply in the real world. And I’m so grateful to be a part of your lives. I have this one bear holding a heart, ready to ship. I think he says so much. If you’d like to take him home, click here.

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  1. So very well-written and it echoes my sentiments exactly. It’s a sad state affairs the way our society has changed but I’m re-assured that I’m not the only one who feels the way I do. Now let’s all see whether we still have the motivation to do what needs to be done to change things.

  2. …and so my husband and I continue to give our boys “bonus points” (obscure, and usually building up to a dessert or special outing) for greeting people with “good morning, good to see you” and actually answering if someone asks “how are you doing?” instead of just rushing past to the next thing. I hadn’t traced it back to biking through neighborhoods, but that could be the point.

    I remember while growing up my dad always remarking about the problem being when front porches shrank and became stoops – no one just sits and visits out on the porch anymore – when they moved to decks and backyards got privacy fences, no one bothered to meet the neighbors – and as such, didn’t notice when someone odd was hanging about (because they knew no one, and couldn’t recognize someone out of place) or an unusual activity/schedule was going on – people can’t check on you and watch out for you if you shut yourself off – they’re not necessarily being nosy busy bodies, sometimes they just actually care, if you let them.

    That took me down a twisting path, I’m looking forward to walking the dog with the kids later – down the street with no sidewalks, where most of the passing cars are neighbors – and all of them at least wave hello as we go along. Thank you.

  3. Very thought provoking post. I often hear people lament of the problems with today’s kids. And it’s true, it is a very different world than the one we grew up in. But in small towns everywhere, there are still kids growing up as kids. My 6 year old learned to ride his bike without training wheels this summer, and has officially joined the neighborhood “big kids”. He will run outside right after breakfast, grabbbing a bag lunch to eat with his friends at the playground (which I can see from my backyard), and he will ride with them until dinner. After dinner, most of the neighborhood gathers in the alley, in camping chairs around a fire pit. We exchange war stories and recipes while the kids play basketball and cops and robbers. I taught a neighbor to knit, and she taught me how to make jam. I have never worried about my son’s safety, and I know if he breaks the rules when I’m not watching, a neighborhood mom with correct him, just as I have done for their sons. We live in military housing, so perhaps my small community is the exception and not the rule anymore. But everyday, I see these kids let their imagination run wild, and I think that perhaps not all hope is lost.

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