A recent Network for Peace Living Room Dialogue with Presbyterian minister Laura Jervis made me reflect on people’s engagement in communities and in doing volunteering work nowadays. Our group wondered if past generations were much more involved in their communities than we are today. This question resonated with me mainly because I wondered if this was a reality or just the perception of group of people. I wondered if people have become more self-centered or if the economic system has driven us to act this way or if it is because we work too much. During our Living Room Dialogue session a recent graduate from Marymount Manhattan College, told us how many of her young professional friends frequently receive messages late at night from their bosses and how they are expected to respond right away. As we know, the job competition is tougher each day and the only option seems to adapt to the system in order to keep our jobs.
An important change in our times is the constant presence of technology in our lives. Most of us are surrounded by computers, IPhones, Ipads, Ipods, etc. The fast pace of technology seems to require that someone who has a smartphone should be able to check their email and work 24 hours a day. When I am not doing the same, I often find myself observing people using their smartphones and how we seem to have shifted from interacting with people and our surroundings to being fully immersed in our technological devices. Certainly, technology has brought people from different cultures together and has helped us to connect with the world. It is a fact that the world has become closer to our fingertips while our capacity to care for others has become a distant reality. Is it possible to conclude that we have withdrawn from our communities while trying to get closer to those who are more distant? That may explain the question raised during our last Living Room Dialogue regarding the lack of interest from young people in volunteering and getting involved in their communities.
I believe that the importance of getting involved in communities is that we exercise our compassion and our ability to care for others. Yes, I believe we all have this ability within ourselves. The challenge of our generation is to try to keep up with this fast paced world without letting go our ability to be human and compassionate. Undoubtedly, technology has brought many good things in our lives and I am one those people that thanks the existence of Skype, now that it is the main way I have of communicating with my family and friends who live far away from me. However, what we really need is to try to find a balance and work harder to retain our compassion and ability to care for others alive.
Network for Peace through Dialogue intern, Taina De Carvalho