I did something drastic last week — I called my cable company and told them that I wanted nothing. “Disconnect the cable. Let me hear the silence, please.”
But apparently, the desire to end our relationship isn’t a mutual feeling. TV has now become my stalker. In the pediatrician’s office, it wails out a nonstop infomercial about weight loss. In the grocery store, it stands atop the end caps, hawking the latest cleanser. And on a perch above the gas pump, it pontificates the wisdom of buying good rain tires.
It’s following me with a message: “Buy, buy, buy!” It’s the mantra of a marketing world where the word “miracle” is defined by how quickly our plants grow or how white our teeth get.
Yet, despite all the pleas to buy things, my experience in the hospital tells me that whatever I buy will one day be packed away in something that resembles a plastic garbage bag.
In a scenario that plays out nearly weekly, I see the place this garbage bag takes at the end of life. The scene is like this:
The hospital intercom squawks: “Code Blue, 5 North. Code Blue, 5 North.” The announcement means someone has quit breathing and requires all resources of the hospital, including the chaplain.
I scamper down a side stairway and break through the ICU swinging doors, not far behind a respiratory therapist pushing a cart stocked with supplies. As the resuscitation team takes their place inside the room, I stand beside a frantic family member.
Apart from what you see on TV, resuscitation most often fails. So, there soon becomes a point when the doctor decides to “call the code,” which means to pronounce the patient dead.
As you might imagine, I spend the next moments with the family in closing rituals and prayers. And as difficult as this is, eventually there comes a more awkward moment. This is the moment the family turns their attention to the packing of the patient’s belongings.
Families who are not eager to spend another minute in the hospital will often reach for the quickest thing available in which to pack, often a plastic bag.
And as I watch the family leave amid the background drone of yet another TV pitch, I often wonder what it might be like when my time comes.
Will their bag be filled with things TV persuaded me to buy? Or will they take on a piece of my faith journey that will inspire them for other tasks?
It’s been said that, “God doesn’t have grandchildren, only children” — meaning a person must have his or her own faith, not one passed on by parents.
However, it is still a legitimate part of my faith journey to regularly ask myself questions like: Will there be a part of myself worth commending to my children? What part of me do I wish they would become? And what part of me will die with me?
I guess all those questions point to a supreme one asked by Jesus and oft repeated by Gandhi, King and Kennedy. “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul?” The answers to those kinds of questions don’t often tumble from the TV speakers and they will certainly never be found at the bottom of a plastic bag filled with possessions.