Pentecost 20

Pentecost 20
My Psalm 20

June 27, 2014

One Ringy Dingy

We had our new puppy approximately three days when I realized it did not know his food came from the kitchen; he was unaware of his name; he seemed as surprised as I was when he went to the bathroom; and he thought I was his personal waiter/valet/entertainment. He did, however, after three days, know the sound of a doorbell. Since ours had stopped working two weeks before we brought the dog home, he had learned that from television commercials. A puppy that paid no attention at all to either music or the television had apparently understood the “ding, dong” popular as an introduction to a variety of commercials. I either had a brilliant dog or he had quickly grasped the concept of how to get a response and the importance of such.

My first association with a telephone is from my earliest childhood. We lived in a city and most homes had a telephone which was often on a party line. Party lines taught people respect since several families would share the same number. If you picked up the receiver and someone was talking, then you put it down and waited for several minutes. Whoever was on the line would hear the pick-up and try to wrap up their call as soon as possible. Occasionally the phone would ring for the wrong family and either the party calling hung up and tried again or someone would take a message and then pass it on. People seldom listened in on another’s call because, well… respect.

My cousins lived for the most part in rural settings so not all had telephones in their houses. They considered themselves rather lucky. No one disturbed them in the middle of the night with a wrong number and if someone wanted to tell them something, they had a visit and share good times. One cousin had a telephone that did not have a rotary dial. You simply picked up the receiver and an operator answered. I had spent time at my father’s office and had used the switchboard there as well as the rotary dial phone at my home but, to me, the phone with the operator was marvelous! I thought the telephone operator had to be the smartest person in town!

Telephone switchboards were manual during my childhood. An operator sat in front of a high-paneled desk. The back panel consisted of incoming and outgoing trunk lines connected to rows of female jacks which identified separate extensions of the switchboard. On the table portion of the desk were keys, lams, and cords. Each cord circuit had a front key and a rear key, a front lamp and a read lamp, and a front cord and a rear cord. The front key served as the “talk” key while the rear key was used to ring the telephone. AS a call was received, the jack lamp would light up and the operator would then place the read cord into the corresponding jack. The operator would then ascertain who the caller desired, put the front cord into the correct extension jack and the two could converse. I’ve left out the keys that had to be switched but, as complicated as it sounds, I often worked the switchboard as an elementary youngster. It was a great highlight of visiting the workplace to be able to sit at the switchboard and utter the answering spiel for the office. More modern PBX systems exist and most are now computerized but I still think the telephone operator was a great job.

Necessary to be a telephone operator was a pleasing voice, the ability to remain cordial, and etiquette. Regardless of the color of the skin of the caller, the value of their clothes, their address or the value of their car, they all were greeted the same.

Prayer gets the same type of response. I’ve never read of any belief system that felt praying at the most expensive address in town granted you a swifter response than praying in a local park, public library, or a derelict building which had fallen prey to rats and pigeons.

“One ringy dingy…two ringy dingy. Have I reached the party to whom I am speaking?” The line was made famous by Lily Tomlin in her portrayal of the telephone operator character Ernestine on the 1970’s television show “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In”. Ernestine was not the modicum of telephone etiquette but her nasal tone and upswept 1940’s hair-do somehow endeared her to millions of viewers each week.

Somehow, our imperfect, human life endears us to our Maker. He/She overlooks our faults and answers our call, each and every time. How often can we say we do the same? Do we value our time more than showing compassion? Where will such a choice take us?

My Psalm 20
In the midst of chaos, God hears me cry.
Amid the churning turmoil of the world,
My voice is heard.
He will give me what I need;
He will take care of me.
He is never too busy to answer my call.

Material things may shine brightly;
They will tarnish and break.
Faith and love are everlasting.

Praise be to God
Who hears our every word.
Thanks be to God!

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