Can you hear me now? Silence truly is golden

sacasa    Maybe you missed it, but a recent study out of the University of North Carolina-Wilmington stated that the average child receives four hours of indirect TV exposure a day.  That is in addition to the 80 minutes they watch for themselves.
    Add it up and the typical American kid gets close to 5 1/2 hours of TV in a day.  I’m lucky if I get 5 1/2 hours of uninterrupted sleep at night.
    Other studies are being done to investigate the effects on social interaction, academic performance and attention span. Needless to say, the preliminary outcomes are not good.
    Therefore, I ask the question: Who has the TV on for four hours a day, if it is not the kids?
    It is the parents, that’s who.
    Let me paint a picture for you: The alarm goes off and we stumble to the coffee pot. As the sweet aroma of the dark roasted beans fill the kitchen, we turn on the TV and start the morning routine of showering, ironing and making lunches.
    We rush out the door, get into the car, and pop in a DVD for the kids, or we turn on news radio because we need to hear another point of view about the same story that was covered on the TV earlier.
    We get to work and listen to Pandora all day.  At the end the work day, we get back in the car and back to the DVDs.
    We get home and turn on the TV for the evening news. Dinner.  Primetime sit-coms.  Netflix. Bed.
    Does anyone else see a problem with this? We live in an Attention Deficient Age. But how can we curb the cacophonic soundtrack of our lives?
    It’s really a simple response: Turn it off.
    We need time to process what is happening in our lives, reflect and just breathe.  We need more quiet, and that doesn’t come easily anymore.
    We have to choose stillness, although I forewarn you that the thoughts in our heads sometimes are louder than the noise through the speakers.
    By choosing to turn off the TV, radio, computer and iGadget, we are making a small choice to be something different.  We are choosing to “disconnect” for the sake of being more connected with ourselves, with our children  and with God.
    God speaks in the silence. A beautiful illustration of this is found in 1 Kings 19:11-12, where the prophet Elijah is summoned to the mountain to wait on the Lord. A great wind blows, then an earthquake and lastly a fire, but God was not found in any of those intimidating natural events.
    Rather, it wasn’t until the “sound of sheer silence” that Elijah knew God was present.
    God extends that same invitation to us today. (For humor’s sake, just image Elijah on the mountain with an iPhone: Do you think he would have heard God between the tweets, texts, emails, Angry Birds and phone calls?)
    Tomorrow is a new day. Try something different. Resist the urge the fill the day with noise. Turn off the radio, TV or computer. Start small. A good place to start is by turning off the radio in the car and driving home in silence. Think about the day; the good and the bad. Keep it off when the kids get in the car. Teach them the value of quiet in our lives. Yes, they might get bored, but that’s the lesson.
    We are not supposed to be stimulated every moment of every day. Use one of the Year of Family and Faith “car visor conversation starters,” available through the archdiocesan Family Life Apostolate, to get the ball rolling on healthy dialogue in the car.
    Try this and maybe we can get those 5 1/2 hours down to something a bit more reasonable.
    Mario Sacasa is director of the archdiocesan Catholic Counseling Service and assistant director of the Family Life Apostolate. He can be reached at msacasa@archdiocese-no.org.

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