Like many people, we are learning to “Zoom.” On Easter evening our Aussie and Texas families had a “Zoom” session. Eighteen of us appeared in mass and talked, mostly in turn but sometimes all at once. We were in our own homes and we looked great, despite being in “isolation.” I my be paranoid because, after the 6th person signed in, I went and washed my hands.

We were from many different backgrounds: Live Oak high school students (2), a Baylor student (sophomore), a Baylor professor, a medical doctor, an architect, a midwife, a senior mission executive, a book room manager, a videographer, a counselor, a special education teacher, a graphic artist, young boys and two old retired missionaries. Lots of stories and experiences—much like in any extended family.

Two wonderful features of Zoom: you can turn your sound or video off and disappear for a time. Unfortunately, they will observe you doing this and ask if you are “alright.”

On the one hand, it is too bad that it takes a virus to make us communicate this way. On the other hand, maybe our joy can spread out better and faster, like the virus, and we can build up antibodies against future isolation—perhaps we can contribute to a pandemic of love and caring for each other in ways that we have not previously done.

It is wonderful to have family and friends in other countries because the internet extends our worldview, making us conscious of the joys and difficulties that others have. There are several Papua New Guineans that email and “message” us, that reminds us of another life we once had. Another friend from New Zealand called to wish me happy birthday, as did over 70 or so others on Facebook. It may not be fun getting old, but it is enjoyable to hear from so many people.

Much of the world is in isolation now, due to the pandemic COVID-19, and we are learning new ways to communicate with those we know and love. Technologies like Zoom, Skype, Google Hangout and others are on the market and have allowed thousands of people to stay connected. The program Zoom is the most popular, although it was only founded in 2011 and went public on the Nasdaq in 2019.

If you are tired of Zoom or Skype, consider other alternatives: “BlueJeans” can handle up to 15,000 participants in meetings and should be big enough for even the largest Waco extended family. If you know what the I-cloud is, you might want to try “Lifesize Video Conferencing,” where you can see up to 50 participants in living High Definition video. Another program, “WebEx Meetings” can host up to 40,000 people, big enough for even the largest Waco church. “GoToMeeting” can work on any device and features “business messaging, smart transcription, one-click meetings and more” (there is always more).

I knew that my grandchildren were technocrats and users, but I was surprised to see how up-to-date and helpful my daughter is. With the work-at-home order in place from Baylor, she has had to teach her Medical Spanish and Spanish Linguistics courses online. She has tried to teach me, too, and I have learned a bit—like making sure the mike is muted when I burp.

In our family Zoom session, we could look at each other, being careful not to mention wrinkles or blemishes. The current technology allows you to zoom in and enlarge them to the size of Mt St Helens. We can even show what we were currently working on—our granddaughter displayed a blanket she had just crocheted. Husbands and wives were sitting next to each other and learning that their spouses were quite interesting and nice people. As family entities we were all obeying the “social distancing” and not gathering in groups, which is bit difficult because, if followed according to the letter of the law, it would mean creating a fake zoom person next to everyone.

Microsoft Word has a dropdown menu called “view” and one of the choices is “zoom.” I like it because it allows me to grow the font size large—150% in my case, so that I can see better. That seems to be what the Zoom program does as well: it enlarges our vision and ability to go across the ocean and meet with family, assuring us that we are interacting. But be careful, no nodding off or looking at your phone—you will be noticed by a whole band of people.

Some people can’t Zoom, and we should be aware of them. They might not even be able to get within 6 feet of their family or friends. They may be homeless, vagrants, immigrants without access for help, or someone shutout by society and shut in by sickness. However, we can “zoom” in on them (up to 6 feet) and pray for them.

Well, I had better click on “leave the meeting” and sign out now.

Karl and Joice Franklin
Many days isolated, but not counting carefully
April, 2020