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My Chair Rocks

Unplug and have a ‘device-free’ dinner

/ 05:33 AM April 15, 2018

The other day, I chanced upon an old friend dining with his son and three grandchildren, the oldest not quite 10. After the usual niceties, I rejoined my lively group.

I noticed how quiet their table was. There was little conversation between the two older men; the son was on the phone most of the time. All three children were absorbed in their iPads.

My friend glanced at me, shrugged his shoulders, and gave a small smile. And I thought, how sad. How today.

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I thought about it in bed that night, and wondered if they even knew what they were missing. Do we realize how much we lose when our full attention is on our gadgets, and not on one another?

Teaching empathy

A day or so later I read some thoughts shared by Melinda Gates, wife of the multibillionaire founder of Microsoft. She is co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a $40-billion philanthropic enterprise.

Mrs. Gates, named by Forbes last year as the third most powerful woman in the world, has explained that their foundation’s role is “to take risks that, if they pay off, could give millions of people the chance to make the most of their lives.”

About today’s high-tech gadgets, Mrs. Gates, a mother of three, said, “I wasn’t prepared for technology’s effect on my kids.

“Phones and apps aren’t good or bad by themselves, but for adolescents who don’t yet have the emotional tools to navigate life’s complications and confusions, they can exacerbate the difficulties of growing up: learning how to be kind, coping with feelings of exclusion, taking advantage of freedom while exercising self-control.

“It’s more important than ever to teach empathy from the very beginning, because our kids are going to need it.”

Mrs. Gates advises, “Unplug. One of my favorite things you can do is plan a ‘device-free dinner.’ It’s not complicated. It’s exactly what it says: an hour around a table without anything that has an on or off switch. Common Sense Media has provided great resources and is turning this simple concept into a movement. We don’t allow cell phones at the dinner table and, in my experience, they’re right when they promise ‘amazing conversation.’”

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Try it.

Goodbye Boracay—for now

I don’t know why, but the news about Boracay shutting down saddens me. I have not been there. But everyone I know has and loves it. And so do over two million tourists who have walked on its beautiful powdery white beaches and been amazed at its incredible sunsets.

The Boracay shutdown is bad news all around. Philippine Airlines alone stands to lose $50 million in six months from canceled tourist charters. Thousands will be left with no income. Many businesses have faithfully complied with the rules. But it won’t matter.

Over the years, we have had a profusion of information on how to preserve the environment, how to take care of it and love it.

Instead we ignored the warnings. We shrugged them off. We expected someone else to pick up our garbage.

What’s the big deal with just one paper cup rolling on the beach? So what if a plastic bag blows in the wind and into the ocean?

And now, there’s just too much to clean up.

Of course there are voices that cry “foul” over what has befallen Boracay.

When I heard that there are plans for a casino (some say two) to open on the island, and that the “shutdown” is just a ploy to allow them to enter unnoticed, I was crushed.

Today, one of the most beautiful islands on the planet has been likened to a cesspool. That hurts. If it is, then by all means it must be closed down until they have cleaned it up and restored it to its former pristine condition.

Will Boracay eventually become just another casualty of progress? Or shall we again file this one under “greed”?

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