There's a line towards the end of The Shawshank Redemption, one of my all-time favorite movies, when the character Andy Dufresne, played by Tim Robbins, writes in a letter, "Remember, Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things …" And, although the "Red" is not me, for some reason, it has always stayed with me, not only because it comes when the Red character, played by Morgan Freeman, is feeling particularly hopeless, but because it's a simple yet very powerful statement.
So, it didn't surprise me when my youngest daughter and I were at Belmont University in Nashville for freshman orientation a few months ago, and I listened to their new president, Dr. Greg Jones, welcome us with a message of hope. He spoke passionately of the power of hope and imagination, the promise of things being better, even while living in turbulent times, and how opportunity and optimism for a brighter future are always possible.
So, in the poignant setting of an auditorium of students and parents preparing for the next stage of their respective lives, it not only resonated but, well, made me think of Andy Dufresne and how he'd probably agree with Dr. Jones and his vision for Belmont to be a catalyst to "Let Hope Abound."
A week ago, I was back at Belmont, this time to drop off my daughter, and I lingered on for a few extra days (no, I wasn't being a clingy mom as it was her request so we could celebrate her first day of classes which fell on my birthday). And even though I wholeheartedly believed in the words of hope as expressed by both Dr. Jones and the character of Andy, part of me was feeling more like the character of Red. Well, that might be a bit dramatic as I didn't actually feel hopeless, just sad.
It was bittersweet. A commonly used word to describe chocolate that's both bitter and sweet at the same time, it was also the perfect way to explain the situation as I felt both hope for the future yet also sadness. Unsure of how to let the "positive" be the focus of my thoughts. And while I knew that thousands (and thousands) of parents were feeling the same way I was, it didn't seem to make it any better. Until …
The night of my birthday, having said our final goodbyes after dinner, my daughter insisted that I should take a final walk around the campus instead of immediately going back to the hotel. Belmont's a beautiful campus, and I smiled as I passed students having impromptu "jam" sessions on the lawns and in gazebos. I walked past a security guard who was obviously enjoying a conversation with a student. And everywhere I walked, there were "flags" proclaiming "Let Hope Abound."
And as I thought to myself that maybe the walk was my daughter's way of letting me know that all would be good, I hear the ping of a perfectly-timed text from my daughter letting me know she was going to meet me and walk with me to the car.
Yes, Andy Dufresne. Yes, Dr. Jones. You're both so right. Hope's a good thing, maybe the best of things. Not only for my daughter and me as we each start new chapters in our lives … but for all college freshmen and their families. Let hope abound!
Quick! Define literacy (without Google or Siri's help). Ok, finished? We bet that you may have stopped at the ability to read and write. Which, technically, isn't wrong. It just isn't completely right, either. Which is what Red found out when she discovered, much to her surprise, that it includes such critical areas as financial, digital, and health literacy.
Red even admitted to Black that she didn't understand all those terms, although she had another concern … was Black going to use her as a poster child for her lack of literacy skills in this month's column, "RED & BLACK … A Blueprint For Life?!"
P.S. – This month's column is in honor of September being Adult & Family Literacy Month.
Want to read other columns? Here's a list.
|I can't believe how quickly the year's flying by. And that tomorrow's already the fall equinox.|
|I cannot believe that you know that but did not know when Rosh Hashanah fell this year.|
|I got the dates mixed up. And I'll admit I had to look up the fall equinox date because it also varies slightly from year to year.|
|Technically, the equinox is not a day, but rather an exact moment – when the Sun crosses the Equator.|
|Picky, picky, picky. But if I remember correctly, although science class was decades ago, on the equinox, we have 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of nighttime.|
|Not exactly, but close enough. But, why are we even talking about this?|
|Because it marks the end of summer and the beginning of fall.|
|Only on the calendar. We live in Texas, so if you use temperature as a guide, fall weather is at least a month away. And, if you are waiting for foliage season, you will have to head north as it does not happen in Houston. Or, settle for some spectacular photos.|
|That's one of the things I miss most, but I love everything about fall – from the early morning "chill" in the air to pumpkin spice lattes (well, really, pumpkin "everything" these days) to the fall holidays. Especially Thanksgiving.|
|OK, but you have always referred to that as the "silly season". That once Halloween arrives, it is full speed ahead until just after the New Year.|
|Thanks a lot. I was thinking about how it's my favorite time of year, and you had to remind me that it goes by way too quickly.|
|So, maybe forget about the Sun and the Equator, and use the fall equinox as a "reminder" to try to stop and enjoy … not only the official beginning of fall but the entire "silly season".|
Initially, I just chalked this up to being "old" and accepting the fact I remember telephones before they were "smart" (and will admit they can make me feel "less-than-smart"). I am old enough to remember rotary dial phones (see the image above) where you had to place a finger in the hole associated with the number, then rotate the dial round to the end-stop and let the dial return under its own power. I will not go into the science behind it, but it was extremely reliable – although very hard on your manicure.
But, this is not about the history of telephones or the associated technology that has improved to the point computers that once required a large, air-conditioned room can now fit in your back pocket or handbag. This is not about us all (regardless of age) needing to be digitally literate. It is not about the fact the older we are, the larger the screen size we prefer, although we might claim it is a function of what we are used to versus admitting to declining vision as we age.
Rather, this is about a recent experience that first made me feel old. Then roll my eyes. And then open my eyes to an opportunity.
I was on the phone (a cordless landline – not a rotary dial or even a phone tethered by wires) with a customer service representative from a high-end designer company. We were discussing an order, and he said they would keep me updated. However, they could not do it via email (my preferred method of communication) but would text me using the phone number associated with my order and that he saw on Caller ID. I said that the number would not accept text messages as it was a landline, but they could leave a voice message.
Apparently, that totally confused the rep, as he repeatedly said he did not understand why they could not text me. And, I kept repeating, almost like it was a mantra, "because it is a landline." Finally, he admitted that he had no idea what a "landline" was … and I started to suggest he find someone "older" to explain it. But, then realized this was my opportunity to explain it to him.
I explained the difference between mobile phones and landlines, but also suggested he discuss the situation with his supervisor as the company sold very expensive consumer goods, and I would think many customers were older and might be using landlines. Surprisingly, he was interested in my perspective and admitted to never having thought about it. And then, he thanked me for taking the time to explain it versus just complaining. (As a customer service rep, I would guess almost all his conversations were complaints – not actual conversations).
There is so much for us to learn and share when it comes to technology and how we communicate. Some people prefer emails while others can only be reached by text; some want phone calls while others can only be reached with a "chat" feature. Regardless, our ways of communicating can be used to divide us – or unite us.
I will admit that I can be confused when confronted with new technology if you will admit that you can be confused when confronted with old technology.