Q: I've always wanted to be a positive influence on people. I used to have time to volunteer, but since my wife got sick last year, I just don't have the margin. How can I still make an impact when most of my energy goes to caring for her?
Jim: Let me emphasize that I think you are making an impact on others -- perhaps greater than you know.
After I broke my ankle in a motorcycle accident, I was in either my bed or my recliner for weeks. My wife had to help me with everything from glasses of water to navigating the stairs. Watching her, I discovered that even simple requests can become a burden when you feel like you're needed all day, every day. And I was only off my feet for 13 weeks.
That's why my heart goes out to those who take care of a spouse who's ill. Your love and commitment should inspire the rest of us. Every day you're honoring your vows that say "the two shall become one." You're taking on their struggles as your own.
You're also teaching us how to respond with love and grace when life doesn't go our way. No couple knows ahead of time what "in sickness and in health" will mean until one of you actually gets sick. You won't know what "for better or for worse" means until your spouse does something unlovable, and you choose to stay committed to your marriage anyway.
Sooner or later, we're all forced to answer the question, "What is my marriage really about?" The couples that last are the ones that say, "Marriage is about commitment when it counts and love put into action." So, thank you -- by caring for an ill spouse, you're reminding the rest of us what honoring marriage really looks like. That's a positive influence.
Q: Yesterday I overheard one of my son's friends say, "Text me on my burner phone." When I asked them what a burner phone is, they quickly changed the subject. Can you tell me what they're talking about?
Adam Holz, Plugged In: You may not know it, but if you've seen a spy movie recently, you already know what a burner phone is.
A burner phone is a cheap, low-tech mobile device with an anonymous phone number -- one that can't be tracked back to its user. Its cloak-and-dagger-sounding moniker comes from the fact that a burner phone can be casually disposed of -- "burned" -- if it's at risk of unwanted discovery. In other words, it's a disposable phone. Unlike smartphones with their big screens, sensitive personal information and expensive data plans, burner phones harken back to earlier days of more "primitive" cell phones, when mobile technology primarily focused on calling and texting others.
Today, these so-called "feature phones" (never mind that they're devoid of most features we now expect!) can be had for next to nothing. Buy a prepaid usage card for minutes and/or texts, and you're good to go. (Or, alternately, an old, discarded smartphone without a data plan can be used similarly anywhere there's a Wi-Fi connection.)
It's not hard to see why spies, drug dealers or other ne'er-do-wells might want a stash of such throwaway gizmos. On the home front, though, it's equally easy to see how a burner phone could be exploited by teens who want a secret mobile connection -- even if it's just for texting. Wondering why Jimmy or Jenny didn't pitch a nuclear-meltdown fit when you confiscated his or her smartphone? A secret burner phone may be the reason.
Kids today are often on the forefront of technological trends like this one. To stay up to date yourself, see PluggedIn.com.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
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