Monday, January 12, 2009

All the Time in the World

When I was in Zambia this past spring, one of the things that struck me, culturally, was the different sense of time people have there. Their pace of life is much slower than ours. Much steadier. People move through the days with a casual confidence that there will be enough time to do what needs to be done. This difference is born of circumstance, of course, but it is a matter of attitude, as well.

On the trip, we had ample time built in to just spend time with our hosts and with each other. For us, at first it felt like we weren’t doing anything. We're used to being busy, because in New York, there's always somewhere to be and something to do other than where you are and what you’re doing. But the Zambians seemed to lack awareness that there is a constant shortage of time. Taking time to relate to one another is important to them. We even encountered people who had walked dozens of miles to visit friends or to do business together, with no appointment scheduled in advance. If their host wasn’t home, they simply sat down to wait.

Returning home, I asked myself when was the last time I dropped by a friend’s apartment unannounced. I came up with NEVER. No, I’d always call first to be sure she was home, not headed out or cleaning or working or watching a favorite show, so that my presence wouldn’t disturb her schedule too much. I’d call, and maybe we’d arrange a coffee date for the following week, a time to catch up briefly between my doctor’s appointment and her lunch meeting. We’d get together as planned. After she dashed off, if she’s a friend I didn’t see often, I might even pat myself on the back for making time to sustain this relationship. I’d probably subconsciously weigh how much I enjoyed the time with her against how hard it was to find a mutually-agreeable place and time to talk—all so I could decide how soon I ought to contact her to do it again. Or maybe I’d wait until she called me...

What would you like to make more time for in your life?

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