I recently went to get my hair cut and had a very interesting conversation with the beautician. She is an immigrant and she told me about how her family, who had come to this country before her, had encouraged her to come. But, before she came she noticed something different about them once they arrived in America. She told me as soon as her family members got settled here, they stopped being so conversant in phone calls and letters. They explained that life in America was different and now they did not have time for those things. My beautician didn’t really believe that life in America could be so different that a person no longer had time for their family or to simply make a phone call. However, as soon as she arrived in America, she found her relatives assessment to be true. Suddenly, she had no time – or not the same kind of time she used to have back home in Africa. She found the pace of life here faster – more hectic – more frenzied – more “unconscious,” if you will (my words, not hers). I asked her what life back home was like – like, what were the things that she missed that now, since she was in America, she had no time for. Her voice filled with longing as she told me that, especially on Sundays back home, everyone would spend the day with family or friends. They would eat together, take walks, tell stories, or play with the children. Nobody did any work on Sundays – no one went to jobs and no one did housework or made any repairs. There was always another time for those tasks to be done. Sundays were reserved for being together and enjoying life. It was expected. It was desired.
Her conversation has made me think about how many things our fast-paced culture demands of us. And, this year of “retreat” for me, without a job or paycheck, has caused me to think about these things deeply and begin to respond differently. Now, a leisurely walk each day (with no particular place to go) is a treasured part of my day. Reading and engrossing myself in good literature and entering into the scenes and stories of other times and other places is renewing and refreshing. Rediscovering the lost art of cooking, with fresh and simple ingredients is paving the way to a new way of eating and living. I resist the urge to turn on the TV or have music constantly playing. I spend more time in quiet contemplation and reach out to others more. I shop only for the essentials, no longer making shopping my favorite pastime. And, doing all these, I find I have more time. Easy to say, I know, when I also do not have a job, but even without a job our culture demands a pace and an expectation of life that is difficult for us to healthily respond to. Think about my beautician’s words: the pace of life here is faster – more hectic – more frenzied – more “unconscious,” if you will (my words, not hers). Perhaps the approaching New Year is a chance for all of us to become more conscious and more deliberate in what we choose to do with our time. Perhaps today is the day we can start responding differently.
What book are you enjoying reading?
Who will you reach out to next?
What will this Sunday be like for you?
Take a walk. Reach out to someone. Enjoy a book. Cook a simple meal. Rejoice and enjoy by making this year different.