Trying to find the positives

When I was a little girl, someone gave me a children’s book about Pollyanna. She always played what she called “the glad game.” No matter what the circumstances, Pollyanna tried to find something to be glad about. My mom read that book to me over and over. I can still see the illustrations in my mind. And then mom and I would play that same game with whatever was going on in our own lives. Apparently it made a pretty big impact because I still do that.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am, to say the very least, not technologically adept. Perhaps that’s partly generational (although many of my age cohort are competent and at ease in the tech world) and partly a natural technophobia, but I’ve been dragged, kicking and screaming into things technological. When it comes to things computer-related, I have a hard time playing the glad game.

This far into the pandemic, however, I’ve taken my old Pollyanna hat and put it back on, even for technology. And so, what I’m writing about in this column are the benefits and blessings of technology that I’ve discovered in the last year. I’m a clergywoman, so this is in some ways specific to my job, but can easily be more broadly applied.
Here’s what I’ve discovered about meeting and worshipping online.

It’s easier for people who live at a distance from the church. Folks who work in town and commute several kilometres don’t want to do that again on weekends any more than necessary. Evening meetings in person are problematic for the same reason. Do they stay in town over the supper hour to attend a 7 p.m. meeting? Drive home and back again? More likely they just won’t attend at all. Even if people were willing to do that, how ecologically responsible is it to drive to a meeting that could easily be held online?

People with mobility or other health issues can worship and serve on committees far more easily.
Likewise for people with social anxiety, for whom groups of people are problematic.
The closed caption function makes it much easier for those with hearing issues.

The amount of time saved by gathering online has made it more reasonable for people to join a group or committee.
When it comes to worship, we at WUC now have regular participants from Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Arkansas, Australia and parts of western Canada. I assume it’s the same for other faith groups.

One of the hardest things to endure during this pandemic has been funerals and ceremonies to mark the death of loved ones. For those times, and for weddings as well, live streaming has the ad vantage of including anyone from anywhere who would like to attend (and who never would have made the trip to a service in person, even pre-COVID.
When it comes to continuing education, there has been an astonishing array of events featuring scholars that I, for one, would never have taken the time and money to travel for, but are available right in my living room. I’ve listened to countless first-class webinars while polishing furniture and chopping vegetables. What’s not to like about that?

And finally, speaking of my living room, attending all these things in my pyjamas with the coffee pot beside me warms my introvert’s heart. Of course it’s not like being in person. And there are definite downsides. I know it’s very hard on extroverts, who need human contact. And we ALL need human contact.

I find myself embarrassed, though, that until now I hadn’t truly considered the people whose needs prevented them from in-person gatherings. On-line gathering truly is more inclusive and more attentive to the whole community.
Some day soon we’ll be back gathering without restrictions. At least I imagine that’s true. For now, though I’m playing the glad game. Online options are more inclusive and ecologically sound. Pollyanna and I agree, we’re glad for all these things.

Reaching out for that long-distance feeling