There is a Walgreen's around the corner from me. I wasn't thrilled when it was built (I was hoping for a Barnes and Noble) but it has proven very useful. It is open 24/7 and is convenient for last minute school supplies, toiletries, prescriptions and most of all, developing photos.
My kids joke (complain?) that all my pictures of them have been replaced with pictures of the grandchildren. It's not quite true but there definitely are a lot of them around. And it's so easy to download pictures from the digital camera and send them to Walgreen's (especially when my daughter does it for me).
There was one picture recently that we really liked so we decided to blow it up to an 8 x 10. When we picked it up, for some reason, the envelope was slit open.
That was no big deal -- it just made it easier for me to look inside at the picture. The strange thing was that the cashier felt the same way. While we were paying, she was opening the envelope and looking inside. And while all grandparents like to hear that their grandchildren are cute, I was so taken aback by her behavior that I could barely respond.
I just couldn't imagine what made her think it was appropriate to open an envelope that belonged to someone else -- a complete stranger and a customer no less -- and look at them.
I was stunned the whole walk home. What has happened to our sense of privacy?
I can only speculate that with the open display of personal information online, with the washing of dirty laundry in public on talk shows, with the gossip in magazines, that the world has forgotten what privacy means. And that's unfortunate.
In Ethics of Our Fathers we are advised to build a fence around the Torah. Why a fence? What does a fence do? It guards what's inside. It conveys the idea that there is something special and precious in here and I want to protect it. That's how we're meant to treat things that are valuable to us -- our Torah, our relationships, our very souls.
Without the recognition that privacy is of importance, the dignity of the human being is diminished. It robs us of our uniqueness and confuses our sense of who we are. If everything is public, where is our inner core?
Sometime politicians feel like they are public beings with nothing left inside, a hollowed out shell. They have become so adept at giving the desire or required answers that they no longer check their internal compass. They may no longer have one.
We are all at risk. The more public we make ourselves and the details of our lives, the less of a solid center remains within.
The more we allow strangers access to our innermost thoughts and dreams, the less that is left for us.
Our privacy is invaded constantly -- by telemarketers on the phone, by salespeople at the door, by casual acquaintances who ask inappropriate questions (like "Are you planning to have more children?" to which my friend would always respond, "You'll be the first to know!"), by busybody friends. Our task is to try to preserve our dignity in the face of this bombardment.
At our core lies our soul, our Divine essence, the center of our being. It's too precious to expose to the cashier at Walgreen's. I'm bringing tape with me in the future.