Try Turning Off The Electronics

Here at yourspiritualgrowthcenter.com, we believe that while spirituality is a personal thing experienced by each person individually, each individual is also responsible for being a part of the community in which they live. At http://www.northernsun.com/n/s/Build-Community-Poster-%284193%29.html they sell an absolutely fantastic poster which talks specifically about the things you can do as an individual to help make your community stronger. For the next few weeks we’ll take each of the specific items listed on the poster and discuss in real terms what we all can do to help make the communities we live in better places for us all to live. Remember, by helping others we not only receive rewards far greater than we can imagine, we also are granted the opportunity to grow spiritually by seeing life from a different perspective.

Here’s what the poster lists as ways to build a community: Turn off your TV. Leave your house. Know your neighbors, Look up when you are walking; Greet people; Sit on your stoop; Plant flowers; Use your library; Play together; Buy from local merchants; Share what you have; Help a lost dog; Take children to the park; Garden together; Support neighborhood schools; Fix it even if you didn’t break it; Have pot lucks; Honor elders; Pick up litter; Read stories aloud; Dance in the street; Talk to the mail carrier; Listen to the birds; Put up a swing; Help carry something heavy; Barter for your goods; Start a tradition; Ask a question; Hire young people for odd jobs; Organize a block party; Bake extra and share; Ask for help when you need it; Open your shades; Sing together; Share your skills; Take back the night; Turn up the music; Turn down the music; Listen before you react to anger; Mediate a conflict; Seek to understand; Learn from new and uncomfortable angles; Know that no one is silent athough many are not heard. Work to change this.

The first thing to do to build a community is a no-brainer. “Turn off your TV.” While the poster recommends turning off the TV, we change it up a bit to say “Turn off your devices.” That has some pretty powerful stuff attached to it. Think about how many hours a day a television, video game, smartphone or computer is running in your home. One? Two? Seven? Sixteen? Now imagine what could be done with that time instead!

A TV commercial features a young man discussing how sad it is that his parents are getting older. They only have a few friends, they retire early. The young man bemoans how his mother has gone to bed without preparing his dinner. During his monologue there are cuts to a group of people in a vehicle singing along with the music and all in all having a great time. The young man feels the computer is the answer to a happy social life and he spends much of his time there. The parents? They’re the ones in the vehicle – out living it. It’s a great representation of what’s happening in our society today. With Facebook, twitter, instant messaging, Skype and more, it is a wonder that we would want to do anything but be on the computer or watching TV. Electronic devices of all kinds have an off switch for a reason – and that even includes cell phones.

Okay, so volunteering down at the local homeless shelter might not be your cup of tea. You don’t think you could stomach going to the nursing home and visit patients there, that’s ok. If you aren’t comfortable around children, you don’t have to volunteer at a school. There are lots of other ways of getting involved in your community. Start taking a walk around your neighborhood and see what’s happening. Is there someone who needs help getting groceries in their house from the car? Does old Mrs. MaGillicutty need help getting her trash out to the curb for pick up? Is there a neighbor who is ill that may need to have their lawn mown or dog walked? Finding a way to help is as easy as opening your eyes and looking around. There are endless possibilities for giving back and helping when you aren’t glued to the screen of your favorite electronic device.

Show your family you can put them first. And, that they can do the same for themselves. Have a family night or even a family hour. Shut off the TV, computer, and all the phones in the house for an evening. Set parameters so that it is specific: “From 5:15 pm until 9 pm electronics will be off.” Then enforce it – and use the time well. Think up ways to entertain each other. Read out loud, share favorite family stories. Hold a family meeting and let everyone give input as to what to do with the time – but it can’t involve a “screen” (smart phone, telephone, computer, television, etc.). See what innovations you and your family can come up with for being able to spend positive interactive time with one another. Board games are a great place to start.

Here’s our recommendation on what to do with the time: Take a walk as a family. Slow down and smell the roses in your neighborhood. If there aren’t roses, take the time to savor the sounds and flavors of those around you. Smile and greet the people you meet, reach out – you just might end up making a few more friends – enjoying life instead of watching a screen, and *gasp* help to strengthen not only your family, but your community as well! So shut off all those screened devices and get out there and have some real fun playing hookey from the virtual world.

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