Kathy is a news junkie. She is fully functional during the day, she goes to work, does her job, relates well to others. But when the five o’clock hour comes around, that’s when she needs her fix.
It’s 4:50 p.m. on Tuesday. Another day done. Kathy gets up from her chair and exits the cubicle where she has just spent the last eight and a half hours, minus two 15 minute breaks, and a 30 minute lunch “hour”. The gig economy passed her by.
She blows a kiss to Marie, and waves four fingers to her friend who is finishing up one last call.
The bus stop is right outside the door of her workplace, everything is precisely timed. The No. 11 northbound rolls up, Kathy swipes her monthly pass, walks to the back of the bus and selects an open single seat from the rows lining the sides of the vehicle.
She is in her happy place. Roughly thirty-four minutes (give or take depending on traffic) of uninterrupted indulgence by that which nourishes her: the news.
Kathy opens twitter. She follows all her favorites; networks, pundits, news organizations, the smart celebrities. What’s trending today? Who is making news? One link after another, Kathy is all in. Consuming the news as if she’s downing a bottle of Evian after a 30K run. Yet her thirst is never quenched. There’s always more. One more grisly detail added. One more opinion sought. One more video capturing a moment.
Kathy Martin is afraid. She is afraid of the news and she is overwhelmed by the danger in the world she lives in. Kathy is my friend and I’m afraid for her.
Me and Kathy go way back. We met on a playground at Oak Knoll Elementary. It’s been forty years since the fourth grade and we’ve been through a lot. Who hasn’t? From a birds eye view it’s been the usual stuff, relationships, career, a health scare that turned out to be not so bad after all.
9/11 changed Kathy. The year 2001 was a real turning point in history and not just for the terror attack on the U.S. It was the year Wikipedia was born and the world wide web becomes a hotbed of news and information ripe for fear mongering.
Television changes too. Network news anchors become all powerful. The news cycle speeds up to epic proportions, so fast that fact-checking gets lost in the shuffle and objectivity is no longer the goal. Fueling fear becomes the norm.
Kathy does not get up to change the channel. Kathy becomes a captive of the endless fearful news cycle, wherever she can find it.
At a dizzying pace, global, national and regional news shows up everywhere, all the time. Before long, Kathy is holding a portable handheld device consuming her undivided attention. It becomes her vice, and she sins.
Attention is a gift from God. It enables us to notice someone or something important. We feel valued when someone pays attention to us. We act nobly when we pay attention to someone else. But paying attention to the news, becomes Kathy’s downfall.
Laura is sixteen. She’s Kathy’s daughter and she is hurting. Kathy missed the signals Laura was sending in her time of need. She wasn’t tuned in to her own child, she was tuned in to CNN instead.
It took a terrible turn of events for Laura to get Kathy’s attention. It had something to do with a boy, drugs and ultimately a gun. I will spare you the ugly story. Your imagination is correct.
In the car, on the ride back from the police station at 2:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning, mother and daughter have a heart-to-heart talk.
The conversation is about forgiveness, dangerous decisions, and bad influences. Both mother and daughter plead guilty and resolve to change. For Kathy it means kicking her news habit and using God’s gift of attention for good. She is determined to make up for the years of misguided focus.
Laura turns it around easily in the comfort of a happy home with a mother always ready to help.
I watch my friend make amends. Now clean, she looks at the world through a lens of love. She is swollen with gratitude for second chances. She is beaming with redemption. She feels safe and secure in God’s protection.
The human soul has unlimited capacity for the ethereal – like love. But it has limited capacity for the temporal – like paying attention.
You won’t hear this story on Fox News. It will never trend on Twitter. But now that I have your attention, allow me to share sound advice. Spend your precious time wisely. Surround yourself in the gospel of God’s good news.