I woke this morning to the sound of children playing football in the street in front of my house. It took me back. I grew up in one of those neighborhoods where almost all of the families had kids within just a few years of each other. We all played together all the time… it was idyllic, but there was no way we could have known that at the time. Many of those families still live there, but the children are now grown and gone. There is a new group of youngsters in my parent’s neighborhood, but I am just not sure it's any different from where I live now.
Although my home is idyllic in other ways, the activity and innocence that comes from neighborhood kids gathering together for no particular reason is not the norm. The sound of children playing in my neighborhood is unusual. And I don’t know if it’s the dynamics of this neighborhood or that neighborhood… if there was a perfect storm of factors that went into what became my childhood home, but it seems that those unplanned close-knit communities of days gone have been replaced by… progress.
We did not have cable TV. No video games. No Internet, no computers. There were no cell phones to stay in constant contact with our parents or each other. We had bicycles, roller skates, balls of all sorts and our imaginations. Yet we made do. We were not driven to school unless it was raining – hard; we walked and then (when we got a little older) we rode our bikes – usually together. Up until about the seventh grade, this core group of kids who had grown up on the same street lived a much simpler life together. Or, maybe, life is much more simple today?
I’m not one to turn my nose up at technology and the convenience that springs from it. I am in contact with vast numbers of past friends and acquaintances that, if it were not for the communicative technology we now have, would be lost forever. But that fact does illustrate the premise that maintaining relationships takes work and the truth is that for many of us, myself included, the effort required often proves to be of a lower priority than what lies directly ahead. Indeed, it should not be surprising – this phenomenon is nothing new. Even before much of this modern technology came along, the art of letter writing was all but lost to the telephone.
And in some respects, technology has taken us back to that. Although few actual personal letters are ever written anymore, communication via the written word has enjoyed a resurgence with the advent of these modern wonders of communication. Email, texting and the many forms of social networking have made writing important again. True, it has evolved (especially where texting is concerned) into an abbreviated, some might say bastardized form, but it is today (and again) relevant. But it wasn’t always that way.
Two thousand years ago, literacy was rare. Communication was an oral and aural art. Texts were difficult to produce and impossible to mass-produce. Gutenberg’s movable type and other factors helped to bring us to an age of literacy. Some would argue that we are less literate today than we were when I was a kid playing with my friends in our neighborhood. Perhaps, but technology today is conducive to written communication and, like Gutenberg’s press did, has shown it is still important. Indeed, not only is it is still important, it always was.
Now, if only there was some kind of technology that would bring the kids out of their homes and into the street to play football…