A few months ago the parish Pastoral Council decided our parish should have a stronger online presence. It is a prudent and modern-necessary endeavor; and so we began to work on our Facebook page and began to build a web site.
I began by seeing what was on the internet in regards to the parish, and so I Googled our name and found some amazing pictures and news stories and some history items. What struck me first on my search was on the top of the Google page, a picture of the parish and some pertinent information, such as address and phone number and Mass times, and then I noticed the stars at the bottom.
The stars could mean only one thing, we had been reviewed.
I was a little nervous, but clicked on the link and discovered, under Google reviews, that our parish had earned 4.7 out of five stars with 7 reviews. Only one person wrote anything to go with their rating, and they were complimentary.
This got me a bit curious, and so I began to research a bit, and found we had a few good reviews on Facebook, and one 1-star review on the Yellow Pages site. Taken collectively, I would say that our parish is doing well.
It did not strike me as odd until later on, odd that we were being reviewed. I do not often think of a parish as being reviewable, like a restaurant or hotel or business. I suppose this is because I do not think of the parish as a business. Yet, because we provide a service, I suppose it was only a matter of time before we would be reviewed like any other place of business.
I am just happy that we are (almost) a 5-star parish, which would look great on our website.
The proliferation of reviews is something new in our society. I spent most of my life going to restaurants and hotels without a clue in regards to what previous diners or guests may have thought about the place. I would give my patronage to a business and presume everything was fine because they were still in business.
There were reviews, of course, but much less formal. Mostly it was someone saying something like, “I didn’t like their food,” or “I stayed there and the room was fantastic.” You just heard things from friends and acquaintances. Now, there are so many reviews and opinions about a place that I have no idea what to think about it.
When I wish to buy something on Amazon, I scroll down and check the reviews and invariably things oscillate so wildly that I just presume all the really good ones and all the really bad ones are fake and I concentrate on the middle reviews.
All in all, what I have learned from reading reviews lately is, because I have no idea who is reviewing, I end up making choices like I did before reviews came along. I simply ask family or friends, or go with my gut. The difference is, when I get a review from a friend or family member, I know them and trust their judgment, taste and opinions.
While the reviews we read online may make a difference, and a perfect stranger may sway our opinions one way or another, we will generally still make a decision based on the thoughts of those we know and trust. Which should make us a bit more thoughtful.
It is easy to forget how much of an influence our opinions, for good or for ill, have on those around us.
It is equally easy to focus primarily on the things around us we do not like, or that annoy us. We may not feel that way about everything, but sometimes it is only the negative or annoying that we speak about, or share with others. If our opinions are negative, that makes a difference; as does our positivity. We have an amazing ability to guide and support the decisions of those we love.
It is a good thing, each harvest season, to remember that we bring in what we have planted around us.
Hopefully, as we consciously choose to live our lives, focused on the good around us, and trying faithfully to bring that light and hope and love to those around us, we might someday stand before the throne of grace, and hear the lovely words, “The reviews of your life are in…5 stars.”