If I have any time at all–to do reading and writing related to my academic work, that is–it seems to come in increments of 5 to 15 minutes. Usually it takes that long to decide which of the various projects I have going commands my attention just then. A couple of days ago, I spent a while thinking about despair (in the abstract, not while suffering from it, thankfully) after reading a comment by Evagrius on Psalm 41: 6 and looking at Psalm 37, for example, but had to leave it in order to attend to some indispensable daily task or other.
Yesterday, my youngest child decided she needed a nap, and took herself off to bed. I thought she was playing awfully quietly… My older son was outside, happily tossing a football around. I thought I had about fifteen minutes to do a little work, maybe post about some of the things I have been working on lately. So I poked my head out to check on my son before I settled down to the computer for a bit.
“Will you come out and throw the football with me?” he called up. Since his dad is British, and not a fan of American football (and since I grew up with a dad who taught me to throw one), I am the designated player when it comes to that oddly-shaped brown ball. The friend my son usually plays with that afternoon was ill, and I knew he was disappointed. So, “yes,” I said, “all right, but just for a little bit.” Twenty minutes later, we were still playing.
Whatever it was that I thought I needed to do those “fifteen” minutes–I never got round to deciding finally what I’d do–will happen eventually. But what I did do accomplished something more, I think, than any bit of work I might have chosen. And it will stay with me. At least until my arm isn’t sore any more.
Am reminded of those sayings of the desert ascetics that Roberta Bondi used to point out to us which went something like this: “If you are praying in your cell and someone comes to see you, stop your praying and show them hospitality.” Our hyper-spiritual pomposities might place “our” prayers above the needs and concerns of other people. But “attending to others” isn’t the same as frittering time in idle chatter. Glad you went with tossing the football.
me, too! thanks for your comments!