Ok, so it wasn’t really a latte that I spilled onto the keyboard of my laptop this past Tuesday afternoon, it was just plain black coffee. But, “Of Coffee and Laptops” didn’t have the same ring to it. Whether latte or not, however, the effect was instantaneous: the computer immediately turned off. I deftly (if I do say so myself) flipped it upside down, and watched with a horrible feeling as coffee poured out from around the keys on to my desk. This was definitely not a good thing. When no more coffee would drain out, and the mess had been cleaned up, I summoned as much courage as I could, and pressed the laptop’s power button. As I feared, nothing happened. Without giving it much thought, I rushed to the Apple Store. The guy at the door heard my story, and managed to look sympathetic and grim all at the same time. But I didn’t have an appointment. They would see me the next day.
Later on, at home, as the computer sat there, suddenly there was a sign of life. It came on, all of its own initiative. It had forgotten the date and time, but soon figured that out. And it had dropped one of my email accounts. Most ominously, the display was flickering a bit. I turned it off. Later, I turned it on. I could tell that it had turned on, but the display was no longer displaying. Not a good sign. The next morning, at the Apple Store, I received some high-tech pastoral care from another grim-looking young man who kindly asked if he could take my laptop to the back room. Who knew what unspeakable procedures awaited it back there! Alas, it was opened up, some lingering liquid was removed, it was blown with air, and when he brought it back out, the display was working again. I was ordered to give the laptop a 24 hour sabbath, and then, well, we would see.
As this little drama unfolded, there were a number of thoughts that preoccupied me. Why didn’t I spill coffee on my old laptop, rather than on my shiny new one? Why did I have to spill the coffee at all? Why didn’t I back up my data more frequently (that should be read, “at all”)? And the most urgent nagging thought of all, What would I do without my computer? How could I function?
In the midst of all these thoughts, eventually another one intruded. The little voice in my head (which I’m hoping everyone has) said, “Is this really such a big problem? It seems to me that this is a rather privileged problem to have, really. I mean, think of how much worse stuff you could be dealing with!” That voice was right, of course. In the grand scheme of things, my computer snafu really isn’t such a big deal. After all, I don’t have some terrible health problem confronting me. I have a home to go to, and a family who loves me. I don’t ever have to wonder where my next meal is coming from, I have a job I love, and I live in a beautiful and interesting place. I do not experience my life as a constant struggle. A little coffee in the computer and the possibility of some lost data really doesn’t rank that high up on the list of things that one really should be genuinely worried about.
Perspective is a blessing. It is so easy for us to become locked inside our own little insulated worlds, and within those small worlds, things can often seem like much bigger deals than they really are. We can lose perspective, and we can lose sight of what is really important. Some of you who are reading this are undoubtedly dealing with some difficult issues, or know someone who is. Recovering a proper perspective helps us keep those people as the focus of our prayer, and it helps us foster a sense of gratitude about the things that really are good and beautiful about our own lives.
So I left the Apple Store with a glimmer of hope that perhaps all had not been lost. I emerged into an absolutely beautiful Northern California morning, and I felt grateful for the beauty of the day and for the many ways in which life offers us the opportunity to feel blessed. And, I felt saddened for those whose lives are filled with much bigger troubles, and who cannot experience either blessing or gratitude. That is something far worse than a little coffee in my laptop.
Oh, that little voice? It had another idea: “Perhaps you love your computer just a little more than you should.”
Naaah, that can’t be right.