She Couldn't Hear Me, but She Could Read
I have long had a love-hate relationship with technology. I love what digital devices empower us to do, but I hate that it's so easy to abuse or be abused by others through those same devices.
Today I had an experience that reaffirmed my appreciation for smartphones. In my church, adults and youth are given responsibility to look after and help other individuals and families in our community. We call this “ministering.” My 16-year-old son and I are ministering companions and we have the opportunity to minister to four different households.
This morning we, along with another gentleman from our ward (congregation), went to visit one of our ministering individuals in an assisted living facility and give her a blessing. She's an elderly woman who has recently had some serious health challenges. She took a bad fall in which she broke both of her ankles and has also recently recovered from COVID-19.
I had never met her before – we are new to the neighborhood and only recently were given the responsibility to minister to her. She is completely deaf in one ear and nearly deaf in the other. When we first started chatting with her in our visit today, it soon became clear that unless we yelled at the top of our lungs, she would not be able to understand what we were saying.
As I saw the look of frustration on her face and felt my own frustration level rising, I had an idea. I took out my iPhone, opened the Notes app, typed what I wanted to say in large, bold print, and showed it to her:
My name is Dallin Crump. My son and I are your new ministering brothers.
She read it, then looked up at me and smiled. Her look of frustration had transformed into relief. “It's nice to meet you,” she said. “Thank you for coming to see me.”
We continued communicating in this manner, which took a little time, but was much nicer than trying to yell at her.
When the time came to give her a blessing, I gave her my phone and enabled speech-to-text to transcribe what we were saying in real time so that she could follow along.
We also later found out she had an iPad. With her permission we took a look at it to see if there was a way she could use it to keep in better contact with us. She said she never checked her email, but sometimes used Facebook Messenger to keep in touch with her family. I connected with her on that app, so now she can message me any time if she needs help from the ward and I can check in on her and offer words of support and encouragement.
30 years ago, we might have gotten by with a pen and paper when we needed to communicate with this sweet lady. But speech-to-text and instant messaging didn't exist in the convenient forms we enjoy today. She would not have known the words of the blessing we gave her, nor would we have been able to keep in contact with her as easily going forward.
I believe God has inspired the development of these and other technologies for the purposes of doing His work. Whether they are used for good or evil – to create or destroy, to build people up or tear them down – is entirely up to us.
For an elderly lady in need of love and spiritual support from her ministering brothers during a very difficult time, my smartphone and her tablet were godsends.