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'Poetry' outlines family's battle with technology

On the night before Christmas, and at the Grosse home. Not a sound could be heard, not even a cell phone.

Those are the first two lines of my adaptation of "Twas the Night Before Christmas" (with apologies to Clarke Clement Moore) as a way to make a family announcement about our Christmas gathering.

This revised version goes on for several verses to "suggest" - actually more of an order than a request - that cell phones, iPads and other electronic devices will be checked at the door Dec. 24 and 25. And those who claim the need to be connected to the outside world were reminded about the land line number for our home. They could even call out on that phone if necessary. Imagine that ... using a land line.

This feeble effort at poetry was more of a pre-emptive strike than a reaction. Our family gatherings haven't been overwhelmed by technology ... yet. But with the ever-increasing presence of communication devices, I could envision family gatherings where half of the adults and probably some of the kids - smart phones in hand - would be thumbing their way through emails, online searches, text messages, posts or any one of the thousands of apps.

Real conversation would be secondary or, at best, disjointed. Anyone or anything anywhere in the world would - at times - seem more important than the people in the room.

Just how well that message was received will be evident in a few days, but the intent seems clear, at least to me - our time together needs to be our time together. It's a time to enjoy conversation, play games, referee the 14 grandkids, attend Mass and share family traditions. And did I mention eating?

New technology puts the world - or some might say "a world" - in our hands. It's truly a gift. But for a couple of days at Christmas we might focus on a more basic type of communication - face to face and personal - and enjoy the special gift of family and the special gift that is Christmas ... Jesus.

SPOTLIGHT ON CHILDREN

One look at the front page and center spread of this issue makes it clear that children are in the spotlight - more specifically the gift of art created by children for the "Colors of Christmas" art contest. The winners in three grade divisions are featured, but their work also reflects the efforts of more than 1,600 students who told one part of the Christmas story through their creativity.

Congratulations and thank you to every student entering this year's contest.

The photos and good news about these young artists stands in contrast to the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., where 20 first-graders and six faculty members were killed last week. That tragedy, the deaths of young children, the violence - all of it tears at the collective heart of the country.

But that school shooting - and the other acts of crazed violence in our country - demand more than cries of anguish. These acts can't be accepted as tragedies that are bound to happen.

Every school can't - and shouldn't - be a fortress, every assault weapon can't be removed from our country and every person suffering from some type of mental illness won't receive all necessary treatment and care. But those issues - all of them - need to be examined as part of an effort to end the violence.

And any such effort needs to be grounded in faith. If the country can come together in faith to mourn a tragedy, we certainly can find a way to come together in faith to try to prevent those tragedies.

It's the least we can do for our country and for our children.

Deacon Randy A. Grosse is editor and general manager of the Catholic Voice. Contact him at ragrosse@archomaha.org.

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