A new fixture in fast-food restaurants has me reaching levels of impatience I didn't realize were possible for a chill religious gal like myself. The source of my fury? Touch-screen soda fountains.
Touch screens are great for lots of things. Phones. Mp3 players. The GPS in your car. However, soda fountains with touch screens have caused me to quietly rage while getting a beverage.
Maybe you can relate.
Placing your cup under the spigot, your desire for a cola now requires that you swipe through dozens of bright pages that ask you to choose between flavors and diet, sugar-free, caffeinated or Splenda options. And don't even try to find the button for the machine to give you ice again -- that was several pages back.
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Time-consuming, yes. But that's not where I lose my mind. No, that happens when I leave my friend at the table to attempt a refill, and there's a small child in line in front of me.
I love children. I love soda. But I do not love when children are standing on their tip-toes, attempting to swipe their way to soda utopia. The machines are too tall, the choices are too numerous -- and after five minutes of searching, they inevitably end up with something they think is gross, like diet lime seltzer -- and have to try again. Meanwhile, my lunch date (and soup) are left alone while I wait for the process to unfold.
Am I overreacting? Yes. Do I need to chill out and just accept that advances in soda technology mean I need to grow in patience (and not leave my table and lunch until the line has diminished)? Yes. Yes, I do. However, watching kiddos attempt to navigate the touch-screen soda machine is a reminder that there are some choices they are just not ready to evaluate and make on their own.
There's a conversation I have with parents I encounter on an almost weekly basis. Particulars vary, but it generally goes something like:
Me: "Hi, Mrs. Smith. I haven't seen Johnny at church lately. Is everything OK?"
Mrs. Smith: "Oh, well, lately he's been telling me he doesn't feel like it. What can I do, really?"
Me: "Uh, isn't Johnny 11?"
I love kids, but they need our help, especially when they're young. Most adults have stepped in at some point and helped a child navigate the complexities of life. Sometimes this means helping a kid swipe through 34 options to find the Cherry Coke they want with their hot dog. Sometimes this means clarifying that Oreos and chocolate milk is not the breakfast of champions, or lending an empathetic ear and explaining that while school is tough, dropping out as a seventh-grader is a poor reaction to the difficulties of algebra.
Soda fountains these days hold lots of choices -- but the world of a child (or teen) holds even more challenges than "diet" or "regular." Attending church -- or any other activity that instills a moral foundation and direction -- is usually not the first thing an 11-year-old wants to do on the weekend. Yet this is another moment when parents and other influential adults can step in and help.
Kids are awesome, but there are so many decisions they're not ready to tackle on their own, and just like an adolescent who feasts on Oreos every day for breakfast will have problems, they'll experience a loss if they aren't encouraged to grow spiritually.
There's no lack of choices (and confounding touch screens) in our world today. The guidance, structure and routine found in religious habits might not always be a child's natural choice. But adults in their lives can be confident that it's the best.
Follow columnist Alison Blanchet at twitter.com/alisongriz. Read her blog at www.teamcatholic.blogspot.com.