Three weeks ago, I had the misfortune of misplacing my phone on a micro bus. While not common, this is by no means an unheard of situation in the chaotic world of Cairo public transportation. After a few days of mourning my pocket sized computer that organized my life, the silver linings surpassed the size of the storm cloud quickly.
After six months of living in Egypt, I broke down and bought a small internet modem. An expense that I feared would cause me to become out of touch with the community I was living in by being able to digitally escape to friends from home whenever I wanted. A fear that turned out to be unfounded. Losing my pocket computer forced me to be more intentional about everything that I did. From communicating with co-workers to navigating Cairo, nearly everything I have done has required greater planning and thoughtfulness.
The obvious challenges did not surprise me, communicating with friends and colleagues in Egypt, communicating with friends and family in other countries, social media, taking pictures, and checking the weather were all made slightly more challenging, an annoyance. I had not realized how dependent I had become on my phone for getting directions, meeting my friends, and finding my socks when the power goes out in my apartment. Each of these obstacles required greater planning, excepting the last one which required more stumbling around in the dark trying to get the curtains open.
Planning required me to set aside blocks of time for certain activities and allowed me to be fully present in those activities. I was able to devote time to creating and fostering friendships with my coworkers, neighbors, and fellow Arabic students. This intentionality of communication went beyond people just in Egypt. While I wasn’t able to talk to my friends and family outside of Egypt as much, I found myself more invested in the conversations I was able to have. I had fewer passing conversations and was able to have more meaningful conversations without interruptions.
This planning, focus, and intentionality in so many aspects of my life quickly began to influence my work. In the eight years since I began using a cell phone, I have never been more “disconnected” from the world around me according to modern technological definitions. However, in those same eight years I have never felt as present and immersed in what I’m doing as I have over the course of the past three weeks. Having recently gotten a replacement phone I will have to work to maintain the level of intentionality and focus that I have benefited from over the course of the past few weeks. Luckily for me it has a very short battery life.
Will O'Brien, member of Union Avenue Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), St. Louis, Missouri, serves as a Global Mission Intern with the Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Services (CEOSS). His appointment is supported by Week of Compassion, Our Church’s Wider Mission, Disciples Mission Fund and your special gifts.