woman on pay phone

Phone it Forward

by Dr. David Sanders

To me, Clark Kent in a phone booth and Houdini in a packing crate, they were one and the same thing, You weren’t the same person when you came out as when you went in.

— Michael Chabon

When was the last time you used a pay phone? The last time you closed the folding door on a phone booth or waited your turn till the person finally got off the phone?

I actually remember the date March 20th, 2003. It was just after one of the largest snowstorms in Denver history—close to 3 feet of snow fell in the metro area. When I was able to finally navigate the streets I went looking for a pay phone and found one at a gas station. I brought a quarter with me. Nowadays, if you want to find a pay phone, you need an APP which will direct you to one of the few places one can be found.

The telephone was invented in the 1870’s with Alexander Graham Bell being the first to receive a patent. In less than 150 years we have advanced technologically from switchboard operator centers and land lines to hand held mobile devices.

My daughter, 11 years old, was sitting beside me as I wrote this and asked me: “What is a pay phone?” Marveling at the advancement in technology is contingent on having been alive to witness the evolution. It is inconceivable for those born this century to appreciate this change and in a similar way, Alexander Graham Bell could not have envisioned the metamorphosis of his rudimentary telephone to today’s smartphones.

When Frances Wisebart Jacobs founded the Hebrew Ladies Benevolent Society in 1872, there were no phones. The community in Denver was small and identifying those in need of social services, food and other necessities was done by word of mouth. Could Mrs. Jacobs have envisioned that 150 years later her Society, which evolved into Jewish Family Service in the late 1940’s, would still be around, using smartphones, to carry out the mission she set forth 150 years ago.

There is lore and mystique about phone booths as portals for not only fostering communication but for transformation. A man enters in his street clothes and emerges with a cape, a woman dials and is transported out of the Matrix. We will honor this Saturday night the Superwomen and men who have dedicated their lives and resources in support of JFS and our own Kabbalah Experience, Superwoman, Jane E Rosenbaum, Chair of this year’s celebration. Transforming lives is what we are all about.


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