Untangling jargon

On the right day, at the scheduled time, my co-worker and I adjusted our bifocals. Then we sat down in front of my work computer for an introduction to the office’s newly installed file management program.

Over speaker phone, an enthusiastic company rep introduced himself as Tim and requested permission to remotely connect to our computer. I agreed. Let go of the mouse. Under Tim’s control my cursor flew across the screen.

As he explained the outstanding features of the new software, Tim clicked on tabs and fields. He entered mock data. He used words like integration and synchronization. He opened and closed tabs, filled in, then erased fields.

“This program links your files to all the computers in your network. Any of you can access and work on them. To begin a new case, all you need to do is….” There went the cursor again, skimming the screen like a spooked fly.

Our two-girl office had long managed calls and casework with pen, paper and basic word processing programs. But occasionally I lost track of calls. Vital case notes sometimes ended up as sticky notes – and stayed there.

I thought I was ready for a better way. But this shiny electronic gadget felt like third year Latin. The guy likely wears short pants and Harry Potter glasses, I thought. A digital native in comparison to us digital immigrant dowagers. I glanced at my co-worker, slumped in her chair, eyes wide and fixated on the screen.

“You can even add widgets,” said Tim. Let’s call this one red and this one blue, and…” As he spoke, the words “red” and “blue” appeared in boxes on the screen. I waited for something red and blue. Cartoon characters, perhaps. But before we could ask about the little blue men, Tim had moved on to the next stellar program feature.

My eyeballs rolled over to my partner. Her shoulders shook. Her eyes had squeezed shut. Cackles emerged from deep in her throat. And were those tears running down her cheeks?  “Tim. Tim. Tim. Tim! ” I interrupted. “My partner is laying an egg beside me.” He stopped. But now I’d started cackling too. “You know…” I barely restrained my nervous guffaws, “you’re speaking to two grandmothers here.”

Dead silence.

“And we have a question for you.”

“Yes?” he said. Cautiously.

“What’s a widget?”

“A widget is nothing,” he said, and we nearly fell out of our chairs.

We’ll learn that program, in time.  But as we tiptoe in, I think of people who choose to follow Jesus Christ, seeking a better way than their own of handling life’s burdens. Suddenly they find themselves among Christogeeks – older believers who speak fluent Christian-ese. I’ve been guilty, too. I see it by people’s glazed expressions.

Most of us who follow Christ have great enthusiasm for sharing him with others. Rather than rushing into holy words and church-immersion, let’s warm new believers with grace and love. Those, everyone understands.