I took my kids to the eye doctor earlier this week—optometrist is the word if I wanted to sound smart.
While in the waiting room, I watched an event unfold. I thought I’d share it with you.
A young child emerged from the examination room followed by the doctor and I assume, the child’s mother. On the other side of the waiting room, sat the child’s father and older brother, I’m guessing somewhere in his early teens.
The older brother, as is typically the case these days, was playing on his phone while awaiting his turn with the doctor. The father flipped through a magazine. Pretty standard stuff.
As the doctor walked toward the father and son, mom and daughter headed off into the showroom to pick out new frames (that’s always the hardest part—picking out new glasses).
When the doctor arrived, the father put down his magazine and turned his attention toward the optometrist to get a summary of the appointment: Nothing to worry about, everything was fine. A slight increase in prescription was recommended, but nothing out of the ordinary.
The father asked a few follow-up questions. His eyes were locked in on the doctor absorbing as much of the conversation as he could.
His son, on the other hand, took a different posture. Throughout the entire interaction, the son continued on his phone—focused on whatever might be drawing the attention of teenage boys these days. He did look up briefly, but I assume only at points in the game that were not important. For the most part, he was involved with his phone.
I wanted to nudge him. I wanted to lean over to the young boy and whisper, “Put down your phone for a second. I know you don’t know the doctor, and the conversation taking place may not affect you, but that is a human being standing right in front of you. And THAT person, whether you know him or not, is more important than your phone.”
It was a memorable moment—the words I wanted to say—not because I blamed the child, or the father, or the doctor, or anyone else. It was memorable because the statement I wanted to whisper wasn’t just about the young boy. The statement was about me—about all of us really.
When my wife walks into the room, do I stop what I’m doing on my phone or computer? I should. Because she is more important than my phone.
When my kids walk into the room, do I stop what I’m doing on my phone? I should. Because they are more important than my phone.
While spending time with my extended family and loved ones over the Christmas season, together in the same living room, will I stop what I’m doing on my phone and be present with them? I should. Those people, after all, are more important than my phone.
But this extends beyond our closest family and friends, this same courtesy should be extended to every human being. A human being does not receive their worth on whether I know them or not. They are valuable, they are important, they are worthy of my attention—whether I’ve ever met them before or not.
I think that’s what struck so deep about the events in the waiting room that day. The young man did not know the doctor, but that doesn’t change the fact that he is more important than a game on a phone.
When I order my coffee, do I stop everything else I’m doing, put down my phone, look the barista in the eye, and offer a smile? I should. Because THAT person is more important than my phone.
So is the bank teller, the gas station attendant, and the bell ringer sitting outside the doors at Wal-Mart collecting money for the poor. THAT person is more important than my phone.
The waitress, the cashier, the stock boy, the young child in front of me at McDonalds, the UPS man, the gentleman pumping gas next to me, the doctor, the attorney, the co-worker (even the annoying one)… they are all more important than my phone.
There’s nothing wrong with phones. I appreciate all the positive changes they have brought into my life. But too often, they distract us from the people around us—both friends and strangers.
This holiday season, let’s adopt an approach to life (and our phones) that directs value where it belongs.
The next time you have opportunity to direct attention toward another human being, keep this reminder in mind: THAT person is more important than my phone.