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POWERING DOWN

By: L. Azar

The tall glass doors opened wide as my husband and I entered the oasis of cherry red that characterizes the décor at Santander Bank. We hovered near the seating area as we awaited our turn, all the while staring at red-framed banners featuring smiling faces and slogans promising wealth and happiness – for free, of course. Before I could even read the fine print following the asterisks, my husband and I were beckoned forward.

“Welcome to Santander of Lakewood. How can I help you today?” a teller in a cherry-red blazer greeted us warmly. My husband and I settled into the plush red armchairs facing her. “Marla,” read her nametag, beside the crimson logo unique to Santander Bank.

We asked Marla to close our bank accounts. For good.

“Hmm.” She seemed genuinely deflated. “May I ask if your request is due to the new three-dollar paper statement fee?”

I almost felt sorry for her.

“As a matter of fact, it certainly is a contributing factor,” I replied truthfully.

We slipped our licenses onto the desk, which Marla lifted with (red) manicured fingernails. As she typed busily at her computer screen, she spoke.

She chatted about the high number of customers from the Lakewood community who were banking elsewhere because of the new paper statement fee. She explained how the bank was aware that “your community members” did not have the same access to online banking as the rest of the world. She assured us that Santander respected our desire for insularity. In fact, Marla explained, a request for a waiver had already been submitted to exempt “08701 residents” (08701 being Lakewood’s zip code) from paying the fee! She added that the only other waiver requests submitted in the United States were for the Amish and the 65+ population.

My husband and I stared at each other, wonder splashed across our faces. Could it really be? I mused. It was finally happening: As of January 1, 2017, paper was becoming practically extinct at Santander! I realized that I, Leah Azar, would one day tell my children that bank transactions were once recorded on something called paper. What?! they’d exclaim. You got papers in the mail that you could touch and rip and write
upon? Weird!

I also realized that, while the advancement of technology wasinevitable and here to stay (although I am still awaiting the machine that will fold my laundry for me), I had to stop and make a conscious decision about the extent to which I would let it take over my life.

I recently attended a women’s gathering where Rabbi Ephraim Wachsman, shlit”a, related an incredible story. Rochel, a Holocaust survivor, once announced that the most joyous day of her life was the day the Nazis, may their names be erased, burst into her home in Poland and tore her away from her family.

The most joyous day of her life?!

“You see,” Rochel explained, “I had a sister right above me in age who always shined and was more successful than me. I always felt inferior and unloved because of it.” On the day the Nazis burst into her home, Rochel’s mother threw herself at the feet of the Nazi monsters and shouted “Not my Rochel! Don’t take my Rochel! I cannot survive without my Rochel!” And on that day, Rochel finally knew without a doubt that she was loved, rendering it the happiest day of her life.

Rabbi Wachsman concluded the story with his message: “Do our children know we love them, or do they see us spending more time with our Smartphones than with them? “The day we power down,” the rabbi added, “will be the happiest day of our children’s lives.”

After the rabbi’s class, I challenged myself: Am I perhaps overdoing it? How easily do I shut my phone or avoid peering down at it in order to give my family the attention they deserve and crave? When my son chirps, “Mommy! Mommy!” eager to show me his Lego tower, do I perk up with the same alacrity as when I hear the blips and jingles of my phone? (If you don’t mind, I’m not going to answer that here….)

I know that finding the courage to disconnect would reconnect me to my family in the most beautiful way. By powering down, I may miss out on a text message or two, but I’ll gain something a whole lot better – their appreciation and love.