In a fast-paced world where only the fit survive, it sure is easy to feel dehumanized. Our technological age has made us more aware of our insignificance.
A few winters ago in Stockholm, Sweden, an eighty-four-year-old woman sat for two months on her balcony before a neighbor discovered she was dead. The woman was found sitting in a chair, dressed in a coat and hat, her forehead leaning against the railing.
A neighbor realized something was wrong when she saw the woman sitting on her balcony around the clock, despite freezing temperatures. "I accused myself for not having seen her earlier," she said later. "I hope this dreadful story makes us better at keeping in touch with our old neighbors."
Isolationism is not a Scandinavian phenomenon; it is a human tragedy. For fear of poking our nose in someone else's business or getting involved in something that could backfire on us, we have trained ourselves not to stop, look, or listen.
But in a fast-paced world where only the fit survive, it sure is easy to feel dehumanized. Our technological age has made us more aware of our insignificance. Our suspicion that we are not loved for who we are is confirmed daily by the impersonal nature of twenty-first-century living. We make a phone call and "voice mail" takes over. If folks are not home, we can talk to an answering machine. If we don't even want to talk, we can e-mail or "text" instead. If we need money at 2:00 A.M., we can drop by the local ATM machine.
Machines write for us, answer phones for us, get money for us, shop for us, think for us, rent cars for us. They can even sign our letters. And the result is scary. A subtle erosion of individuality, followed by a no-touch, don't-bother-me-I'm-too-busy coldness, leading to a total absence of eyeball-to-eyeball interaction, resulting in the ultimate: more loss of human dignity. This is excused because it saves time and keeps us from getting hung up on knotty things like relationships. They say that's healthier?
What's so healthy about becoming completely untouchable?
Machines can't hug you when you're grieving. Machines don't care when you need a sounding board. Machines never affirm you when you are low or confront you when you are wrong. When you need reassurance and hope and strength to go on, you cannot replace the essential presence of another human being.
Christ came to save people. Human beings with names and personalities and fingerprints and faces. Upholding human dignity is worth the effort every time.
There's no substitute for the personal touch.