The Precious Commodity Of Time

Susan Page
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Wednesday - December 21, 2011
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In impoverished parts of sub-Saharan Africa there’s a well-known saying: “In Africa, we have no watches but have plenty of time. Americans all have watches but have no time.”

Isn’t that the truth? Time: It’s got to be the most precious commodity in our busy, hectic lives. As the last shopping days dwindle in the countdown to Christmas, I often find myself in a self-induced list-checking, down-to-the-wire-shopping tizzy. My pulse races as I rush down the Barbie aisle at Toys R Us only to, alas, find Fairy Barbie is no more. If only I had one more day.

Tell my friend Zodwa in Manzini, Swaziland, of my hectic schedule and she would surely belt out a boisterous laugh, head shaking in wonder and kind admonishment. “Susan Page, you must come to my house, and we will talk and pray and spend time together. Then we will walk over to visit the children who have no parents and take them some beetroot from my garden.”

It is axiomatic that Americans are time-crunching overdoers. It’s our culture. We have overdone many things during the course of our short time as a nation, most of which are to be praised. There has inarguably been an urgency to “do” ever since America’s humble beginning. Oppressed people seeking freedom, the ultimate gift of choice, didn’t have the time to squander. New freedom, guaranteed by law, gave way to unbridled competition leading to the start of a new culture of producing ingenious ideas, inventions, solutions, cures, a model for other societies and charity. That new culture astonished leaders of the tired, old, limiting, top-down, elite-class nations and still does even today. (Despite our economic hard times, the U.S. is still a safe bet. Americans, allowed to exercise the same guaranteed freedoms, will solve our problems as we have through even tougher crises).

Truth is, being busy is only abusive of precious time when it isn’t purposeful busyness. Isn’t it easy to get seduced into time-devouring TV-watching, Internet-surfing or email-reading, leaving zilch time for reflection, prayer, creating, loving and service?

The Christmas holidays can, in fact, be a time of purposeful “doing.”

Chapter 29 in Rick Warren’s famous, now classic book The Purpose Driven Life is called “Accepting Your Assignment.” He quotes from the New Testament Book of Ephesians, chapter 2, verse 10: “It is God himself who has made us what we are and given us new lives from Christ Jesus, and long ages ago he planned that we should spend these lives in helping others.”

This is a good challenge for Americans who famously love assignments.

Today, only four days out from Christmas, as I seem to be adding footnotes to my to-do list, many people from churches across our state and our nation are readying for Christmas mission trips to serve the vulnerable in the poorest of our world nations. Right here, meals are being delivered to the lonely and the indigent. The oftforgotten elderly in nursing homes are being visited with carols and gifts of loving hugs. Toys are being wrapped and delivered to Hawaii’s children whose family resources are low. Hard-earned dollars are being sent to charities that prepare gifts of basic supplies for children in remote locations, and millions of Christmas letters and gifts are being delivered to our troops far across the globe who risk and fight for not just our freedom, but that of people they don’t even know.

Christians believe that Christ was born, among other things, to teach love.

In the next few days, I’m vowing to carve into my characteristic American overdoer’s 25-hour day purposeful time to reflect on that universal Christmas lesson and look after my fellow man which includes really being present for my family and friends while looking at my watch, without which I’d never get anywhere on time and rarely do as is. (Sorry, dear Zowda).

Merry Christmas, MidWeek readers, and a very Happy and timely New Year.

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