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Family Faith: Choose life

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

By Pat McDonough

My daughter, Caitlin, graduated from the University of Virginia last May and set her sights on finding a position in public policy for a not-for-profit agency, preferably one concerned with human rights. A strained economy prevented most of her peers from fulfilling their hopes of becoming gainfully employed, but Caitlin was fortunate to find a job in Manhattan working for a company that assists non-profit agencies in fundraising.

Her boss was an interesting woman. While not naming her here, I can tell you that her  sister, Lizzie, became front-page news in New York, and perhaps nationally, after driving her Mercedes SUV into a crowd that was waiting to gain entrance into a Hampton restaurant in July of 2001. Lizzie yelled the words “white trash” to the people who were pinned against the wall with broken legs, a shattered pelvis, internal bleeding, concussions and the like. She drove home, leaving them for dead. Her wealthy, privileged family defended her, Caitlin’s boss, an attorney, mounting the most magnificent defense.

Unsuspecting Caitlin was handed a Blackberry the first day on the job and told to keep it on at all times. Her boss called as early as 6 a.m. and as late as midnight seven days a week. I watched my daughter fill her days (and nights and weekends) with anxious responses to the Blackberry’s ring. Her sleep was interrupted, she had no time for her daily workout at the gym, and her meals were all at her desk. She got to the office by 7 a.m. and stayed as late as midnight. The girls in the office told her sometimes they just sleep there. “You get used to it,” they said. It was clear to me that craziness had become the norm.

Cait made her mistakes, as anyone would at a new job. The boss called her “a retard,” which, among other things, is politically incorrect, especially for a woman who raises funds for foundations that support the mentally challenged. Cait was called fat (my size six daughter who makes me wonder if she eats enough) and low- class because she was starstruck when meeting a famous television personality who supports one of the foundations that she was serving. When Cait suggested to her boss that she was overstepping the bounds of professionalism, not to mention human decency, she was reminded that she’s lucky to have a job in these tough economic times.

I’m happy to report that Caitlin is no longer employed by the “Wicked Witch of Wall Street,” not because she quit, but because her boss told her that she’s really not cut out for a career.

While I’d like to think Cait’s situation was highly unusual, I’m told that a 12-hour work day is expected and a work week rarely ends, thanks to modern technology. Blackberries and cell phones are always on, and sadly, so are their owners.

Science tells us that depression and anxiety disorders have skyrocketed in the United States (certainly in New York), and that these maladies have made their way from the office to the home, where young children are cheated out of childhood because technology calls the shots. Kids are modeling parents by logging on to their computers at all hours and leaving their cell phones on during dinner and into the wee hours of the morning. Sleep deprivation and overstimulation causes serotonin levels to drop, which then gives rise to mood disorders and learning difficulties.

God crowned the world’s creation with a sabbath day. Have we allowed our technological creations to alter His plan for all creation? If we are made in His image, and He needed to rest on the seventh day, it seems to me that we do, too.

A month after being let go and recovering from her “career,” I see Cait once again choosing life. She enjoys three meals a day at a table with friends or family, she exercises regularly, and she’s applying to doctoral programs in public policy while tutoring high school students for some side money. Lucky for Cait, she learned that life goes on beyond the call to craziness, and that nothing should come before the command to choose life.  

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