Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Busyness

I've been reading The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell.  (I've also enjoyed his book, Blink.)  I find them interesting for what he has to tell us about how humans work... ideas about how we make decisions, know things, interact with one another.  (I feel the need to add a disclaimer here.  The books are written from a purely secular viewpoint and there is no room for God in Mr. Gladwell's worldview.  While what he has to say is interesting, believers need to filter the books through the lens of Scripture.)  I just finished reading a section where the author recounts a study that was done called "The Good Samaritan study".  I've read about this experiment before, but was more struck by it this time for some reason.

Shortly, the experiment took a group of seminary students and asked them a series of questions and then requested each of them prepare some sort of lecture.  Some students were asked to prepare a lesson on the story of the good Samaritan.  The students were then asked to walk to a different building where a group was waiting for them to deliver their message.  Half the students were told they were running late and the others were told they had a bit of time before they were needed.  Between the buildings a man was stationed who looked homeless and who was in obvious physical distress.  The experiment was designed to discover who would stop and help the man.  An unfortunately small number of students stopped to help.  In looking at the results, the researches found that it didn't matter why a student chose to enter seminary, or what they had recently studied (the Samaritan story for instance), but what mattered was whether the student felt rushed or not.  Those who were told they were late nearly all walked by the man in distress. 

It seems the aphorism is true:   If the devil can't make you bad, he'll make you busy.  And it would also seem that by making you busy he makes you bad in the process.  I guess this strikes me so much more reading about it this time because I am becoming more and more convinced that busyness is dangerous.  I know when I am feeling rushed or harried or as though I have too much on my plate I am a more impatient and short-tempered mother.  I am less likely to take the time to talk with my children or read books to them or, sadly, even find time to make eye-contact.  I have things to do.  And they are important.  Evidently more important than my family.  My children are left behind, possibly in distress, if I am too busy rushing from one task to another.

But often it is not just the parents who are too busy, but the children as well.  Parents rush their children from one activity to another.  And while the activities may be worthwhile, they are certainly not worth the stress and disconnectedness that results from all this rushing.  When do families get to just enjoy each other?  Why do we have such an aversion to having time that is not scheduled?  What are parents afraid of that they must schedule their children's every moment?  Oddly, it is at the beginning of summer where I feel the most out of the mainstream.  I have had to drive M. various places for the past two mornings and both days have come across mini-traffic jams of cars as children are dropped-off for day camps.  School has been out for less than a week and the day camps are in full swing.  Not signing my children up for endless camps feels a bit more counter-cultural than not sending them to school.  Perhaps it's because camps are purely voluntary while school, in some form, is compulsory.

So, I will continue to fight busyness.  There are so many things that are good, or interesting, or educational.  But sometimes the best is to relax, slow down, and just enjoy the presence of each other.

3 comments:

susieloulou said...

Those camps aren't voluntary, the parents are probably both working full time. I figured that out the year I helped with a week of day camp, it was a hiking camp and none of my girls liked hiking. Me: Why did you sign up for hiking camp, then? Many of the girls: I'm going to every camp this summer :-/
After that I had a better attitude, tried harder to make it fun and give them chances to lie on the grass and stare at clouds ...

Cuppa Jo said...

I have written on this subject several times myself. "I am busy" is a thoughtless response nowadays.

Recently wrote about Free Time for PittsburghMom.com. The link to that one is on Cuppa Jo.

I can't STAND when a friend starts out a request of me with, "I know you are busy . . ." I now cut them off and say, "No, I am fulfilled." We do not overbook. It's a choice.

Anyway - I get you on this. Sometimes, doing nothing is perfectly fine.

mrsbroccoliguy said...

I always think of that Veggie Tales story of Flibber-o-loo and the Busy song, "I'm busy, busy, dreadfully busy, you've no idea what I have to do..." I think 99% of the people around here are singing that song. But I'm with you, I think down time is very important - for my own sanity, but even more for my kids. How can they have that imaginative childhood fun if every minute is scheduled with camps and sports? Unfortunately, many working parents feel they have no choice, but I wonder how many have considered sending the kids to the grandparents for a few weeks or hiring a summer nanny or something so the kids could just be kids?

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