Pokemon Go and a Funeral

The beginning of last week I didn’t have a chance to even glance at Facebook, or pay attention to anything in the media. When I did sign back into Facebook the first post in my feed mentioned something about “the person who almost ran me over playing Pokemon.” The Pokemon part meant nothing to me, but the rest of the post was comical so I read it.


Pokemon Huh?

As I started to work through my notifications I started to get confused. More than half of them mentioned something about Pokemon! Full confession time here: I had/have only a very dim awareness of Pokemon. Prior to checking Facebook last week I sort of had a vague idea that Pokemon had something to do with a Japanese cartoon. Maybe. I wasn’t really sure. But I kind of thought that only a few people really cared about it.  

By the time I was done checking Facebook it appeared that perhaps the only person that didn’t care about it was me! I am no longer really young, and I never have been cool, but I work with a team of young and very cool people. So, I Skyped my young and cool team and asked what the heck was the deal with Pokemon all of a sudden? That’s how I learned about Pokemon Go. That was Wednesday. By Thursday evening I had heard about Pokemon Go on the radio, in podcasts, discussed by friends and colleagues, and even headlined on the front page of our local newspaper that I glanced at in a waiting room.

A Very Big Deal

The news reported that Pokemon Go had almost as many users as Twitter. Average daily usage was bigger than Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. It was the fastest mobile game of all time to reach 10 million users. Pokemon Go, in short, is a thing. It’s a very big deal. It has reached tens of millions of people. It has made a lot of people very rich, doubling the stock price of Nintendo. It has become one of those technology and popular culture events that has come out of nowhere and is suddenly everywhere. Everyone is talking about it. Almost everyone is playing it.

All of this was in my mind Thursday. On Friday I attended a funeral, and on Saturday I went to the burial. The funeral was for my wife’s grandmother. She was 93 years old.

A Quiet Life

The life of my wife’s grandmother was not one of grandeur or fame. Her husband of seventy years was a pastor of mostly small congregations and a respected and faithful church leader in a small denomination. Grandma was a pastor’s wife, a mother of two, an elementary school teacher in three different states, a Sunday school teacher for many classes, a member of the choir, a grandmother of two, and a delighted great grandmother of nine.

The funeral was a lot like her life. It wasn’t large, but it was full of love. The pastor recounted a life of quiet, unwavering faithfulness. He called attention to the testimony of a seventy year marriage marked by love and respect. He pointed to the evidence of her faith in God in all that she did, how she had passed that faith to her descendants, and he called all those in attendance to follow her example and follow Christ.

A woman rose to talk of Grandma’s friendship. A man spoke of the steady service and leadership of Grandpa and Grandma in the church. The last speaker was a woman who told how Grandma had taught her about Christ as a child, and the difference that simple lesson had made in her life.

The burial was in a very rural part of the country in the mountains. The cemetery was small, located on the corner of the farm her husband had grown up on. The graveside service was attended by a handful of family and close relations. Afterwards those who attended ate a homemade lunch made by the women of the small congregation that had been Grandpa’s home church, under the church’s picnic shelter, along a quiet mountain road.

Famous and Big

Pokemon Go is a big thing! It’s cool and hip and in! It has a user base of millions. Commentators say it’s a great thing that all these game players are out and about and moving around now instead of on the couch. The game has made and will make the company’s investors rich. The game is famous, in the news, and on our lips.

Humble and Small

I don’t think Grandma was ever cool and she would have likely rebelled against being “hip.” If you take all of the children she taught in all of those classes you may not reach the same number as the amount of Pokemon Go players in a decent sized city. She was never famous enough to attract any commentators. She lived modestly and carefully on a small church pastor’s salary. Grandma was never famous, except to those who loved her.

Which is Important?

And yet…I can’t help thinking that when it’s all said and done, when the sheaves are all brought in like we sang about in that old hymn at her service, when the final count is made I think it will be revealed that Grandma made a bigger, more lasting, more important impact on the world than Pokemon Go will ever dream of. My guess is that Pokemon Go is a flash, a spark, a bang that fades and leaves only a faint cultural memory. The millions who are obsessed now will find a new shiny thing to do. Pokemon Go is big and fancy and popular…but not very eternal.

I think what Grandma built in her quiet faithful life will last. It will grow. It will spread. The results of her kindness, her love, her service, her example won’t stop. Each child she taught. Every person she served. Every kindness she showed. These things don’t just end. They grow and mature and continue on and on. Transforming the people touched by the teaching, and the service, and the kindness, even though the person transformed may not even remember who or what started the transformation. How many people are changed by one good, faithful life and the ripple effects of that quiet life well lived? Such a life effects eternity.

I realize that this isn’t really a fair, or even a reasonable, comparison; between a game and the life of a person. They are juxtaposed in my mind because of the timing of last week. Still, I believe the example and lesson still holds. We are so often trapped into thinking that it will only be the big, the important, the loud, the shiny, the fast, the rich, the power, and the numbers that can make a difference in the world.

Final Lesson

I think we will find that it is really the small, the persistent, the steady, and the faithful that will make the difference in this world. And the next. I didn’t learn that in a game. I learned it from Grandma.