When I was around 9 years old, I had a little bit of money burning a hole in my pocket, so I made my way to Browns 5 &10 store, just on the other side of the highway next to the Piggly Wiggly. Browns had more stuff per square inch than any other store I had ever been in, including Searstown in Columbia. It truly was the incarnation of the old general store, but it also included an aisle for toys.
That was where I headed. Now, one of the important things about having your own money, is that you never want to waste it. This of course is different from those rare occasions when Mom or Dad might actually foot the bill for something – then most anything was worth getting. This time, however, I perused the little shelves carefully, knowing my financial limit, and wanting the most bang for the buck. I don’t know why it caught my eye, but there it was, all silver and red – a completely mechanical pedometer. It was made of tin, I think, and it would count your steps as you wore it proudly on your belt. This would be the buy of a lifetime. I wore it everywhere I went, being sure to regularly take it off so I could witness the step total increasing with every activity. I didn’t know I was “doing” fitness long before it became popular. The pedometer is still in one of my little boxes inside a bin somewhere downstairs. By now, it’s a collectible, for sure, being 55 years old.
When I worked at the Dakotas Conference as director of leadership development, one season I was on a task force to help our clergy find ways to become healthier, and in doing so, cut down on the medical insurance costs for everyone. In the course of our discussions, I finally offered, “We should just buy everyone a pedometer, and tell them to start walking!” That idea grew and grew, and pedometers were purchased, with the help of our general board of pension and health for the denomination. We became a guinea pig test conference dealing with walking as healthy activity. Later on, the board expanded what we did into a clergy-wide activity known as Virgin Pulse, where electronic pedometers are still being distributed today across the United Methodist Church, inviting pastor to “start walking.” Although it’s not widely credited, I like to think I had at least one good idea to improve our clergy’s life.
I guess I’ve always been a sucker for devices that make what we do more interesting. A few years ago, I dove into the world of Fitbits – small electronic wrist monitors that were fancy pedometers, and also measured other things like heart rate and such. I graduated to a larger Fitbit, which also told me how I slept the night before, and what time I spent in what stage, as well as heartbeats and how many stairs I have climbed and other very important trivia. I discovered, however, that the little monitors tend to have a short life expectancy, since I have worn out two of them already.
It was during the slow death of my second monitor that my son Adam introduced me to his own fancy-schmanzy health monitor – the Apple Watch. The watch actually has a clock application to tell you what time it is, but it also has, in that small case that sits on your wrist, more computer strength than what was available to the Apollo astronauts as they went to the moon. Heartbeat, breathing, ecg readout, weather reports, sleep, calendar, all sorts of alarms, and it lets me know when in the course of an hour, I need to stop typing and stand up and walk around, and much more.
Actually, it is one of those things you get, like a new computer, that is way more advanced than you are. It can do things that I really can’t figure out yet – or maybe ever. Oh, it will also display any incoming phone calls for my “smart phone,” as well as any texts that might be sent. The danger in all of this, of course, is that as I am trying to go through the different programs, if I swish or wipe things the wrong way, it will delete before I even know I’ve done so. Twice already I have deleted the current weather conditions for Fargo, just by accidentally hitting a red “x” on the screen. Oh, and just to ensure it is like Dick Tracy’s 2-way wrist TV (first introduced in the comics in 1946!), I can turn the Apple watch into a walkie-talkie with anyone else who has an Apple watch. Amazing…
It does have to be charged every day, so I do get an hour and a half when I am back to non-electronic, non-computerized, non-space -infinity activity, and just have a bare wrist. I do like the thing, but there is one glaring issue that 90% of the world would probably just ignore – it is woefully right-handed. The knobs and buttons that you have to push are on the right side of the watch, which means it is meant to be worn on the left wrist, so your right fingers can easily operate it. However, if you are left-handed, as I am, the tendency is to put the watch on your right wrist, which means, just like when I learned to write, I have to reach across the watch pushing buttons on the wrong side – for me – and not really being able to see the screen, since my hand pretty much covers the screen without my bending and trying all sorts of gyrations to both push the button and read the display at the same time. But who’s complaining? Certainly not the right-handers out there…
I don’t know where our technology will ultimately take us. I’m already feeling as though it’s difficult to hang on to the rope of the future – it keeps slipping through my fingers, and I just hope there is a knot on the end that I can grab on, and hopefully learn how to climb back up. I find myself at times nodding my head when I watch the commercial that shows an older couple – grandparents – watching with excitement as their grandchildren come to visit. They hug the kids and then reach around, and hand over a huge pile of electronic gadgets, and say, “Here – these don’t work – please fix them…” Not quite there, but closer than I care to be.
And it all started with a little metal pedometer. No matter what, it’s still important to find what is essential in our lives, and to live intentionally. Haphazardly, accidentally going in all sorts of directions only leads to a mess of a life. We may not all become computer scientists, but we can find the level of living in our modern world that is both comfortable and reliable. Just be sure to do two things: stand up now and then, and breathe. Both of which, by the way, the Apple watch can teach you to do.
Word for the day: assiduous. Pronounced uh-SID-jou-us. It’s another one of those Latin based words that has gone through transformation from its original meaning. Assiduous means, “attending, constant. The verb assidere, means “to sit by,” from ad “to” and sidere “to sit.” So the word really first meant to remain beside, or to be ready to serve someone. Nowadays, however, the word as an adjective really describes someone who is diligent in what they are doing, or attentive, and best, someone who is persistent, and never gives up the work assigned, or that they have chosen to do. Kind of like putting a crossword puzzle together – it requires an assiduous spirit, or else after you find the outside frame pieces, you end up just dumping it back in the box, because it’s too hard…
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.