Certain recent events have triggered a memory of my first years on the Internet. I believe it was 1998 when we got our first Gateway computer. I had no instruction, and I learned a lot of things the hard way. For the first week I had the thing, I was turning it off the wrong way... you know, I wasn't going to "start", "turn off" or whatever a PC says; I've already forgotten, after only a couple of months using a Mac.
One thing I certainly did not intend to do was enter a chat room; I'd read all the horror stories: People being abducted, tortured, killed. No way, not me.
I believe I was on the Christianity Today website when I saw a place to click for chat rooms. How bad could a Christian chat room be? I clicked, and I was hooked.
For a loner like me, it was the perfect way to communicate: I could have friends over and not worry what they thought of my old house with the roof leaking in the bathroom. I didn't even have to worry about whether my house was clean! And if I didn't like what they had to say, I could turn them off.
The website offered several chats for different interests: women's chat, men's chat, and others. I finally settled on the "Christian's Fifty Plus" room.
For a couple of years, it was perfect. Everybody seemed to like me; a guy with the screen name "Havok" taught several of us some basics about computers, telling us about keyboard shortcuts and such. I went to my first chat room reunion in Dallas. I was going to hitch a ride with my friend Wilona, in Arkansas, but I'd never met her "in person", and Cliff was sure I was going to be abducted, tortured and killed; so he took me. By the way, when he met Wilona, it was love at first sight. To this day she is one of his favorite people.
Somewhere around 2001, I believe, things in the chat room took a turn. Suddenly not everybody liked me. Looking back, I think the problem was that I spent way too much time chatting ("tatting", as my then three-year-old granddaughter called it). I imagine some people got tired of me being there for every. single. conversation. Whatever the reason, catty remarks were made by a handful of people, and my dozens of friends decided to defend me. This led to people taking sides, and it became an all-out war. Yes, I'm talking about adults, many of us "seniors" and most of us "Christians". Christians are human too, you know.
I left the chat room, never to return; but I think the war went on for another six months before AOL finally closed the chat room, for reasons having nothing to do with the fighting.
I gravitated to message boards and found out the situation is pretty much the same on those as it was in the chat rooms.
Then I discovered blogging, and it has been the perfect medium for me. I can interact with others as much as I like; if they get tired of me, they can choose to stay away from my little home on the Internet. If they get hateful in the comment section, I can delete their comments. Considering so many of my foes from the old chat room are floating around in cyberspace somewhere, it surprises me that I don't get more rude comments. I often wonder if any of them have found their way here, and whether they still judge me in the same harsh light as they did back then; I wonder if any of them would tell me why they turned against me, if we were to meet.
I know several of my allies from the old room read this drivel.
All of these memories were brought back by a poem I had occasion to dig out of my archives yesterday. I was never satisfied with the first couple of lines of the thing, but I've been too lazy to change them. I wrote it after leaving the chat room behind me.
I DO NOT CHOOSE TO FIGHT
Donna Wood July 23, 2002
I was my mother’s only child, so I grew up alone.
I had no one to tussle with, as puppies with a bone.
You might think that’s a blessing, or consider it a blight,
But in a confrontation, I just do not choose to fight.
When dogs of war surround me, I will always walk away;
I do not care that others agitate, or join the fray,
With passing time, I’m sure we’ll figure out who’s wrong or right.
But meanwhile, I have things to do: I do not choose to fight.
My friends may love the battle, and all choose to bend the bow:
I never studied weaponry. Such skills, I do not know.
But God has often stood for me, with power and with might.
With such as He assisting me, I do not choose to fight.
In one quite recent “smear” campaign, I answered not a line.
Why stoop down to their level, when the battle is not mine?
I have a thousand songs to sing, and poetry to write.
Why would I waste my energy? I do not choose to fight.
Let others have the medals, and let others fight this war.
I’ll save my strength until I find a cause worth fighting for!
I have a purpose to my days. My slumber’s sweet at night,
My sins have been forgiven, and I do not choose to fight.