Life In A Cell Phone’s Contact List

My wife and I had our old cell phones for about four years. We replaced them with smartphones a little over a year ago for the whopping price of 98 cents each. The protective cases cost much more than the price of the phones under our two-year contract. Getting the prior generation of the phone model we wanted was far less expensive than going for the latest one.

With my interest in photography, I was immediately impressed with the photo and video capabilities of the cameras on our new smartphones. However, before playing with all of the cool features on our phones, we needed to transfer our contact lists from our old phones. We decided to do it manually, and in the process of transferring the information it stirred up a lot of memories for me. It made me realize how much has changed in our lives during the four years we had those old phones.

I had work contacts on my old contact list. Except for two people, I had not seen anyone who worked at my old job since I left. I have been writing professionally for about a decade, but I held onto that day job for a long time. Some issues with diabetes drastically cut back on what I could do to earn my keep, causing me to need to give up that job. At the time I was staying in touch with one coworker who had become a very good friend. I was certainly keeping his number in my contact list. Some of the other coworkers’ names gave me a bittersweet feeling when I decided to not transfer their names and numbers over to  my new phone.

I decided to keep another employee contact from where I used to work that has been in my contact list since the time I was a manager for the company. He was part of the staff I managed, and I have always enjoyed conversations with him. Though I have not been his boss for years, I still text him a couple of times a year. I usually reach out by text message around major holidays. It is minimal, but it is sort of staying in touch.

He still works there, and he still reports the same issues today that we dealt with back then. Some things seem to never change, but some things definitely do. I found out his dad, who he took care of when I was a manager, had passed away some time back. I was sorry for his loss, being struck by the feeling of how life just carries forward no matter what.

Now it is a little more than a year into having our new smartphones, and I am no longer close with my former coworker I worked with up until the point I left my job. We met once for lunch, and we send a few texts back and forth a couple of times a year. I tell him happy birthday on Facebook too, but that is about it. He now has another child. I never really got to know his first child, even though the boy’s first name is a variant of the spelling of my middle name. I did not plan on losing touch with my friend. It just happened.

I deleted some more contacts that had made the initial transfer from our old phones into the new ones on a day when I decided to sit down and go through them. There were people in there that I would not likely ever contact or be contacted by again. One guy on the list never did particularly care for me even though I tried to build a positive relationship with him. He knew me when I did not serve the Lord, and he could not accept that Jesus had made me a new person.

It was really strange deleting my father-in-law’s phone number from my contact list. My wife’s father had developed gastric lymphoma and passed away within four months of being diagnosed. I had his number in my phone for some time after he passed away. I imagine it had long since been shut off. It was just strange to keep it and strange to delete it.

When I finally did delete his number, it almost felt like I was letting go of something I should hold onto. However, there is something in the tragedy of this loss that is glorious indeed. My father-in-law prayed with my wife and I and accepted Jesus as his Savior just four days before he passed away. That is what I will hold onto. Not an old disconnected cell phone number in my contact list.

At about the same time we got the new phones, two people in our contact list who we were very close to got married. We changed her maiden name to his last name. Now with our phones a little more than a year into service, we, unfortunately, do not have much of a relationship with either of them. Their new marriage did not survive through the two-year contract period we have with our new phones.

It felt sad and strange to change her name back to her maiden name again in my contact list, and the hilarious text message exchanges I used to have with both of them are now a thing of the past. Somewhere in the awkwardness of relationships after divorce, they fell out of touch with us. We also changed another person’s name in our contact lists back to her maiden name when her divorce was finalized. So many things can change at such a rapid pace.

There is some good news with our contact lists in that our young niece and nephew got new iPhones for Christmas this year. She is 12, and he is 10. It is nice to be able to communicate with them through text messaging. That is, if they would ever text us back. I know that many old folks want a phone call, but I actually prefer texting for short conversations. I’m okay with it, and I’m 50! Maybe it is because I communicate better with the written word. After all, I do that for a living. On the other hand maybe it is because too much talking makes my throat sore.

Some more good news is that I have added two of our neighbors to my contact list. We have been able to reach out a little to our local community since circumstances have been keeping us closer to home. It has made me acutely aware that people are hurting and in need of the Savior here just as much as they are in the communities surrounding the church we are members at that is miles away. All the years of commuting 80 miles per day back and forth to work and having our closest friends almost an hour away had me neglecting neighbors within sight of my front door. The changes that caused us to need to stay close to home for the time being were troubling, but God always fulfills Romans 8:28.

I have also considered names that never made it into the contact lists of our phones. One was a fine Christian gentleman just a few years older than me who attended our church. He passed away of colon cancer. We were from different socio-economic backgrounds, and we never spent much time getting to know one another. No fault of either of us, it was just the way it turned out.

We talked at church, and my wife and I prayed for him a lot when he got sick. We had Christian love as brothers in the Lord, but we never became close friends or even buddies. I have heard so much about him since he became ill that I am sorry that I did not make more of an effort to get to know him. Our differences would have been our strengths, and our similarities could have possibly changed the world.

I have my very good friend of about 30 years on speed dial with both his cell phone and home phone numbers. However, his home number is now disconnected. He and his wife have sold their home and property as the Lord led them to do. I have not deleted his home number yet. No reason. I just have not gotten around to it.

They are now waiting for the Lord to lead them into a new home. That old landline number that I had memorized is now disconnected. Their address—I had it memorized too—is also changed. The years of Tuesday night bible studies that were held in their living room are now being held at another location. They are living at a temporary place, and soon their address will change again when they get their new home.

Change is the way of things. It is part of how this universe works. Some change can seem so terrible while other times change is eagerly anticipated. I remember wanting to get my driver’s license as soon as I turned 16. I remember wanting to officially be an adult at 18. As soon as I was 18 I was looking forward to the next phase of adulthood at 21. I even looked forward to turning 25 because I would finally get an age discount on my car insurance. That was before the little green gecko with the Australian accent was all the rage. He did not get famous until I was 36.

I have considered all those changes I have made to my contact list in the cell phones I have used over the years. I am old enough to remember when no cell phones existed. There were mobile radio phones available that were hardwired into automobiles. They required speaking with an operator to patch a call through. When I was young I had telephone numbers that were important to me memorized. Now I have to stop and think for a second when someone asks me for my phone number. We dial by names or pictures in contact lists now, and I rarely have a need to call myself.

Every name in my contact list has some sort of meaning to me. There are some contacts—such as credit card company numbers—that I would be happy to delete. However, I will keep them on the list until I owe them no more. Some numbers I have in my list that I wish their owners would contact me more often, but you cannot force any sort of relationship with friends, acquaintances or family.

Caller ID will pop up with the name and number if the information is in my contact list. I would be surprised to see some of the names in my list pop up on the screen when the phone rings now. I have fallen out of touch with some since my wife and I are home so much more now. I would say that is my fault because of the long hours of working to earn our keep and not being able to get out and socialize as much. I think we all have good intentions of staying in touch, but the ways of this crazy world get in the way of doing that.

Look through your contact list and see what memories get stirred up. You might even run across a contact you just have to delete right there on the spot because of so many bad memories. Maybe you are holding onto a contact that used to be one of the most important people in your life but now has no more priority than a casual acquaintance. Maybe you will see a contact or two that you want to text or call right away just to touch base.

There is a lot of history and emotion contained in those contact lists we keep in our phones. Unlike old handwritten address books like my mother used to keep, the digital versions are unlikely to survive very long. My mother passed away a few years ago, and my wife’s father has now been gone for a couple of years. We both reminisce when we run across something handwritten by them.

The potential for emotion in cell phone contact lists is as fleeting as many relationships are today. It is easy to get wrapped up in ourselves and our own projects, goals, triumphs and miseries to the point we will no longer go out of our way to build strong lasting relationships. Funny how it is easier to digitally erase someone from our lives by deleting their contact information and unfriending them on Facebook, but crossing out a name in a handwritten address book leaves a permanent mark.

A really good thing to remember each day we have breath is how our lives are just a vapor, a mist, that is there for a moment and gone (James 4:14). Now is the time to be saved—right now (2 Corinthians 6:2). Now is also the time to be working on relationships with family, friends and neighbors. In setting priorities for establishing, building or rebuilding relationships, it is good to remember the other thing James said in verse 16 of chapter four, “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”