In Praise of Gadgets (June 7, 2015)

Last week I received my Christmas/Valentine’s Day/Easter/Mother’s Day gift – a shiny new Apple Watch.  I’m sure some of you might be thinking, “What a silly thing to buy,” but I am delighted with it.  It means I don’t have to dig through my purse for my phone for so many things.

My husband and I are self-confessed gadget geeks.  I started using a smart phone many years ago, when DayRunner quit making the small version.  I  was delighted with the idea that now I could carry my address book, calendar, shopping list, medical records, even my Bible (in two languages!) on my phone.  My watch doesn’t have my shopping list, and the Bible app isn’t quite ready yet, but it handles my e-mail and messages, the weather, my schedule, maps, the latest news, and some very helpful health applications.  It keeps track of my pulse, and reminds me to stand up (as I’m able) and move my arms and body once an hour.  I like that.  And, of course, it tells the time.  I can even choose different watch faces depending on my mood or the occasion.

I saved my money for a long time to get this little piece of technology.  I know some people consider it frivolous, but I consider having all these applications on my wrist a benefit.  (And, I confess, I always loved Dick Tracy’s wrist radio!)  I pause to thank God that I live in a time when technology has advanced to the point where such marvels are available.  I have a power wheelchair – a boon because my hands are disabled and I can’t propel myself in a manual chair.  I have a mobility van, with a ramp that comes out the side door, and a transfer seat which slides back and out, allowing me to transfer me from my wheelchair to the driver’s seat and drive myself around town.  I have a special knob on the steering wheel because I can’t hold the wheel for very long.  I relish my independence.

This kind of freedom was unthinkable just 50 years ago.  In fact, it wasn’t until 1947 that Walter Harris Callow designed the first wheelchair accessible buses for disabled veterans in Nova Scotia.  Tracing the history of the wheelchair-accessible van is sketchy, but it is recorded that the rear-entry kneel van concept was imported from the Netherlands in 1985.  We know that Ralph Braun invented a wheelchair lift that could be operated with hand controls in 1966.  In 1970 he presented the Dodge “Lift-a-Way” full-size van to the world, and the accessible minivan in 1991.  Other companies followed.

The power wheelchair is also the gift of a Canadian, George Klein, who developed the chair for paralyzed World War II veterans sometime in the early 1950s.  Subsequent innovations and improvements have resulted in more comfortable seats, chairs that can maneuver through sand, gravel, and dirt, seats that can raise and lower the user, and chairs that can be operated with a sip-puff system, among other things.

Thanks to these forward-thinking inventors, I can go to school twice a week to tutor children in reading and mathematics.  I can drive myself to my doctor appointments, to Bible study and other personal errands.  I am so grateful.  How has technology helped you, or a friend or loved one?

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”  Matthew 11:28

We thank you, Dear Lord, for the gifts of creativity you have given to some people, that have benefited so many others.  We are grateful that we are not confined by our physical limitations, but given the freedom to freedom to venture outside our doors and into the world.  We thank you for our wheels, which have become our wings.  Amen.

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