Sunday, March 18, 2007

Wasted Time

This was a week of futile efforts and wasted time.

This week I wasted an entire afternoon sitting in and around a State Senate hearing room waiting to testify in support of a bill to allow home-based day care providers to organize. I went to Annapolis, dressed in my clerical collar and all, and there we waited three hours, through panel after panel of people speaking in favor and against a different bill. I had to leave before they even got to the bill on which I had been asked to speak.

On Friday evening my family and I went to the airport to catch a flight to Phoenix for my grandfather's 80th birthday party. The shuttle bus driver picked us up in the parking lot and asked what airline we were on, and when we told him, he just laughed. There was a mix of snow and sleet falling and they were cancelling flights across the board. Ours was still scheduled to go, so we got our boarding passes, our airport dinner, and then went to the gate where we waited for an hour and a half with an exhausted toddler before they cancelled our flight (and sent our luggage on to Phoenix anyway). And with no available seats to Phoenix on any flight on Saturday, we weren't able to go at all, which was really disappointing.

I am not the kind of person who likes wasting time. It's so frustrating for me because I view time as so precious. And I usually pack my schedule so that I am never idle. So when I wasted all this time this week on these two fruitless endeavors, I was really cranky. What was the point? I thought. How could I have done things differently so that this wouldn't have happened. I was kicking myself for having wasted so much time and for having gotten nothing for it. Or so I thought.

Perhaps this week was a lesson in waiting, in patience, in the blessing of wasted time. Now I wouldn't go so far as to say that God arranged this week's events intentionally to slow me down. I think God would like me (and all of us, really) to relax and stop moving at a breakneck pace--it's the whole reason why God commanded us to observe a Sabbath--but I don't think God is going to make me do it. It's my choice--free will and all that. But I have another choice, too. I have the choice between getting mad and frustrated and irritated and stewing about wasted time, or of viewing these two experiences as a sign that I need to slow down, to appreciate the moments and days that are fleeting by. To appreciate people, relationships, life, the world around us.

Even the best laid plans sometimes go ary and there's not a thing we can do about it. Sometimes we are forced to wait, or turn around, to waste time. But I am trying to look more carefully at how I spend my time, and how I view time in general. It's possible that there's no such thing as "wasted time." During those hours waiting for that hearing, I got to talk with a lot of interesting people, and I got some reading done. During our wait at the airport, we got to meet the former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and I got to knit, and then I ended up with a free Saturday that I got to spend with the two people I love best in the world.

Maybe there's no such thing as wasted time, unless, of course, we mean the time we spend wishing we could be somewhere else, doing something else.