By David Hegg
OK, truthfully, I’ve never been home-schooled in the technical sense. But, if your “safer at home” experience has been anything like mine, you’ve learned quite a bit about yourself, your family and life itself this last month. Here’s my personal progress report in no particular order.
Domestic Progress: Being at home 24/7 has been eye-opening. Turns out the saying “a man’s work is from sun to sun, but a woman’s work is never done” is true. I’ve been amazed at all my stay-at-home wifey does in the course of a day. She’s amazing! And, not wanting to have all the fun herself, my wife has allowed me to see how satisfying it is to do the dishes, clean the kitchen, and actually accomplish something tangible with my own two hands. Thanks hon … I think.
Community Awareness: We’ve all learned how necessary it is to be with people, haven’t we? Do you find yourself slowing down as you drive by people walking, so tempted to smile at strangers or even roll down your window in hopes of saying a word or two? I do, and I’ve also come to look forward to lunch and dinner for different reasons than before COVID-19 invaded our valley.
According to Harvard University’s Family Dinner Project, 70% of our meals are consumed outside the home, about 20% are eaten in the car, and about half of American families almost never have what we used to call a “family dinner.” For those wondering, a family dinner is when the family is together, at home, sitting around the dinner table eating a meal.
My home-school curriculum has taught me to prize meal time as more than food consumption. It is a precious time of fellowship, of life-on-life relationship, and I hope our nation becomes addicted to meal time as the best kind of “social media.”
Garbage Removal: And speaking of social media, I’ve come to realize that sitting in my backyard, surveying the mountains by day and the stars at night, is a better way to find meaning for my soul than is my addiction to email, texts and all the other avenues of “new” that promise much more than they deliver, and steal much more than we realize.
Want to find some joy and refreshment? Turn off your phone, leave your tablet in your room, eliminate all the garbage from external sources, and gift yourself some unscheduled, unplanned, uninterrupted time to gaze, contemplate, reflect, muse and enjoy the world around you.
Acquired Proficiencies: During this season, I’ve also gained some new proficiencies. Doing “church” remotely has turned my house into a recording studio, and I can now add grip, lighting director, director of photography, editor, and on-camera talent to my resume. Who knew seminaries should be teaching video production and a basic course on Zoom? Oh, and I’ve also learned to make some killer banana bread!
Self-sufficiency: Lastly, I’ve had a powerful refresher course in what it actually means to find happiness. If you’re like me, you’ve unknowingly become addicted to outside stimuli as a means of bringing excitement into your life. That’s why we’re always checking our phones for messages, hoping something new, something interesting, something remarkable will zing its way into our lives. That’s why we get so excited when we discover those boxes on our front porch, or that pouch in the mailbox. Add to that our belief we need to find that next great TV series or movie or docudrama if we’re going to make it a great evening.
Centuries ago, Aristotle taught self-control as a cardinal virtue. He wasn’t only talking about losing your temper and doing harm to others or yourself. It was deeper than that. Self-control was the ability to be controlled in thought, word and deed, not by external factors, but internally by one’s strength of character and ethical commitments. To be controlled by one’s educated and ethical self was of utmost importance, both for the person, and the society. And, for me, the educated, ethical self is steeped in biblical faith in Jesus Christ, who lives within all those who entrust their lives to him.
Once again, I’ve realized that, as a society, we have tried and failed to outsource happiness. We’ve ceded over the power to feel good to outside entities who we then hold accountable to provide us with new, interesting, exciting and pleasurable stimulants that have become the stuff of our emotional well-being. We’ve become a nation of passive, hollow people who depend on a conglomeration of incessant information and entertainment to feel good about life.
And it’s killing us.
So, as I enter my next quarter of home school, I’ve decided that sometimes “old school is the best school.” I hope you’re enrolled and look forward to the day when we can compare notes.
Local resident David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church. “Ethically Speaking” appears Sundays.