This Christmas, just for 24 hours, I challenge each of you to be present.


Don’t just wrap presents for the tree, but be present for your family, your friends and your neighbors.

Put down the phones, the laptops, the game consoles and the tablets. Shut down Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and live in the moment instead of for likes and comments. Turn off the TV—the talking heads and football teams will be there Dec. 26—and if you need to fill the silence put on records or CDs of your favorite holiday songs and just be present in the moment.

I dare you.

Once, long ago, when relatives would come out to the farm, the television got flipped off and the music was turned on low so that conversation could occur.

You remember conversation, right? That give-and-take dialogue, among people in face-to-face settings, where the parties catch up on family and telling stories?  We don’t have those anymore. Instead we have online trolls, comment wars with our cousins over politics and memes that replaced “hey, how are you?” in our communications.

Christmas brings family and friends to our homes to celebrate the birth of a love so great that it can’t be put into words. And what do we do to welcome them to our homes? We sit in front of televisions grunting over football plays or catching up on commercial breaks. If anyone looks up from their smartphone between grace and dessert it’s a miracle, on 34th Street or anywhere else.

The screens are even coming into church sanctuaries now, with everyone Instagramming the sermon in real time. We live for internet fame, and we tune out the people who we love who’ve gathered together in real life.

So, this Christmas, be present.

If you have to use your devices, use them for greater good. Take photos of family not just in front of the tree clutching whatever “it” presents they got this year but in the kitchen making pies,or outside doing that early frosty Christmas morning feeding before breakfast and presents. Use the video or audio recording app on that phone to record your family memories before the voices are silent and gone forever. Use your music app in place of the broken record player to create a Christmas playlist from your childhood.

Play games—no, not on your devices. I’m talking about those dusty board games in the cabinet under the TV. Clear off the table and play with the little ones and the not-so-little ones. Trust me, it’s a thousand times more fun than Candy Crush.

Have your older family members walk you through making their recipes in the kitchen, from cookies and pies to that side dish that’s a family favorite.

Stop by the cemetery and place flowers on family graves. Maybe even drive around with your older family members and visit places from their childhood and capture those stories to pass along.

Take a walk around the neighborhood after lunch, or load up the car and drive around after dark and look at Christmas lights.

Be present, because no brightly wrapped package can take the place of time with our loved ones. No one ever dies wishing they’d spent more time arguing with strangers online or sitting and watching some talking heads on a set scream at each other over politics.

Who knows, maybe after these 24 hours you’ll try going device-free again when it’s not a holiday. Now that would be a Christmas present that keeps on giving all year round.

Jennifer M. Latzke can be reached at 620-227-1807 or

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