Saturday, December 30, 2006

"Electronic Friendship"

This morning, as I read Danielle Bean's blog, I remembered an article that I had written about three years ago. I would like to share it with you here.

The Joys and Frustrations of Connecting, or Re-Connecting, Online
by Margaret Mary Myers

Friendship is surely God's greatest gift on earth. Our friendship with Him is an insurpassable blessing and privilege. But He also made us for friendship with our fellow travelers on this voyage that we call life. I am not putting friendship above marriage, as happily married spouses are also friends to one another. But those who are married need other friends besides the one.

Friendship is the very great joy of those who are not married, as well. From my observation of several single or widowed ladies in my youth, they seemed just as happy as married women, and sometimes much happier than some married women I knew. Their secret? Their friendships.

I am not putting friendship above family either, whether immediate or extended, because good family ties involve varying degrees of friendship with the family members. Friendship being so important, and so rewarding, it comes as no surprise, then, that a new mode of communication would become a new "powerhouse" of connection with friends, both old and new. And that is why I named this chat, "Electronic Friendship". Not only does the internet provide us with an inexpensive means of keeping in touch with our old friends who may live at a distance, but it also sometimes provides us with a source of new friends, as dear as some of those we have first met in person.

ADVANTAGES: Emails can be sent at the convenience of the sender, and received at the convenience of the receiver. No worry about whether or not the other person is busy or our schedules mesh. And emails travel through space with the rapidity of the angels. Like the angels, when we are doing email, we are often speaking heart to heart, soul to soul. Consequently, it is easy to communicate on a deep personal basis, seeking and giving encouragement, sympathy, understanding; sharing at a deep level.

Sometimes in sharing with others, through writing, reading what we've written, and reading their response, we learn more about ourselves, and grow personally, as well as sometimes helping the other person to do the same. I have been able to keep in touch with my sister-in-law and dear friend by email when I couldn't afford the money and time for long phone calls with her. I have been able to develop a close personal friendship with a lady who was at my church, by communicating through email, and when she moved away, our friendship was as strong as ever, as we were able to continue our electronic communication uninterrupted.

SERENDIPIDITIES: How many wonderful surprises I have had through email! I imagine that is true of some other people also. When I was contacted about my thirty year high school reunion a few years ago, the lady who contacted me asked if I had email. I said yes, and we found we had homeschooling in common. We formed a new friendship where there had been none when we were in school, now communicating principally by email. Now we not only chat on email every now and then, but when I go to my home town, we can easily talk on the phone for an hour or more at a time. Another former classmate and I met online and talked about some of the things that had happened in high school. Although we were not unkind to each other in school, I think we would have been named "least likely to be friends" in high school, had there been such a designation; but now she has enriched my life in many ways and is one of my great inspirations.

One of my sons put up a website and told his message board friends about it. One of them offered to help him improve the graphics and other aspects of his website. Now it is a group project, although they still consult my son for his opinion and final word on any changes and updates. Recently, two days in a row, they had a thousand visits to the home page. Not only is it good for his self-esteem but he is learning so much about computers and the internet that he might not have learned as well in a classroom.

The greatest serendipity in my own life has been how God brings good out of bad, how my youngest son lost much of his vision, and I gained so many wonderful friends. I have found a whole community of resources to fill his needs, and the support to fill mine. I formed friendships at various levels, some acquaintances, some closer friends. Among these, I have gained a few very close, dear friends.

DISADVANTAGES: I said that in communicating by internet, we often communicate like angels, on a heart to heart basis. However, we are not angels. Oh dear. No, we have bodies and souls. We have five senses, more or less. I say more or less because some of the people I know, and have known, are deaf, or blind, or are not able to smell or taste. But we all have the use of at least some of the five senses. And there isn't much of that involved in communicating by email. We feel the keyboard or the braille or we hear the synthetic speech; and if we are sighted, we see the print. But it is not a personal thing, like touching a friend, or like seeing someone's face or their handwriting, seeing the stationery they have chosen, smelling the perfume on their stationery, or hearing the voice, inflections, and laugh of a friend. As wonderful as it is to be able to communicate electronically, sometimes there is the desire to stretch it to a fuller dimension, to be in touch with the person as a whole person, not just in touch with the wonderful depth of the soul but with the body and our senses as well.

Sometimes we even do have the opportunity to meet an online friend in person. But sometimes we don't have the time or money to do so and can only dream of being able to sometime in the future. Normally in friendship there are some kinds of shared activities, whether working on a project together, sharing a meal or snack, or some form of recreation. This is something that is usually missing in an internet connection. Another drawback is that it is easy to say things that we might not otherwise say, whether unwise or too personal. Sometimes we say things that are right but, without body language or "vibes", they come through differently than we mean them to. It is also perhaps easier to fall into whatever personal "phobias" or "neuroses" that some of us may have, be it manipulating, smothering, neglecting, feeling insecure, or not communicating our needs and our feelings about how the other person communicates. It is perhaps harder to overcome these without the personal connection of the whole person -- with no body language or voice inflections than we can "read". Sometimes, when this is our deepest or our only form of communication with someone, it hurts when it is withdrawn. A friend might get so deeply involved with email that he or she feels the need to cut it off entirely for the sake of his or her home life. Then we may be left without communication with that person.

ENRICHMENT: While our internet friendships enrich our lives, we can also enrich our internet friendships. Some people send pictures of themselves, and perhaps of their family or friends, by email, website, or even by snail mail, to their email friends. Some people who meet or chat online also call their friends on the phone. We can send a greeting card, either an ecard or by snail mail, or we can occasionally send a snail mail letter. We can share what we have written for publication (or at least "hopefully for publication someday"). If we know or can find out what the other person likes, we may be able to send small, easy-to-mail gifts, a nice-smelling sachet or hand lotion for a lady, or a pressed flower, or a book; or maybe even a small food gift, thus sharing our food, even if we cannot sit down to a meal together. One friend of mine asked me about my shopping choices and has sent me many coupons over the months. If only we could find a way to send a hug.

SOURCES: So how do you find online friends? Besides finding out which of your local or long-distance friends have email, another way is to get on an egroup with other people who have the same interests or needs. One good source of egroups is at: There you can find categories to browse, or type your interest into their search box. And just sign up and introduce yourself.

BENEFITS: The benefits of online communication are great and far outweigh any weaknesses, in my opinion. Where else, in today's fast-paced world, could we meet so many new friends, develop such deep friendships, share values and concerns as we go about similar or varied responsibilities, and obtain so much support and affirmation? What a wonderful opportunity and blessing the internet can be in our lives and that of our friends!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Christmas Holidays

Christmas Holidays

Ahh, the Christmas Holidays are here! The sight of snow falling outside, the sounds of tinkling bells, the smell of cookies baking on the stove, …

Well, no, the afternoons have been in the sixties here, I hear the sound of the washing machine, and maybe I’ll bake some cookies if I ever get caught up on everything else. But I like not worrying about the family driving (or walking) in the snow, and I am ever so grateful to have a washing machine in our apartment…And we can even walk over to the leasing office any time and get a cookie (we don’t do this too often, so as not to wear out our welcome).

Of course, Advent is a time of preparation for the birth of Jesus, but I would like to also call it an extended Thanksgiving. We are thankful for so many things. Among others: Ed has a good job that he likes. Greg got a job. My car is still running. And the three kids who live in Kentucky are coming here for Christmas. (Paul came last night.)

Homeschooling is going well. We are picking up the pieces from the transition of moving. Robby is doing well with his junior year of high school. Peter has a teacher of the visually impaired who comes in once a week to help him with assistive technology and to help him to learn how to do math in Braille (in case this should be a better option for him at some point). Peter has a guitar once again. And we are making new friends…and trying to keep in touch with our old friends, too.

We have the tree and the nativity, and we anxiously await the day when we can put the Baby Jesus in the crib. But in reality, He is with us already! He has been with us so truly, each and every day, watching over us in every aspect of our lives.

May you feel His presence and joy during this beautiful season, and always!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Short Advent Meditations

Advent is with us. I just came across the following page and wanted to share it. It has a brief meditation for each week of Advent.