Our home is a case study in messy schedules. We have a child now at school age and another at not-yet-school age. My wife works night-shifts in the ER and I am a pastor with meetings at various times. Add to this the buzz of phone reminders, kids birthday parties, groceries, and family gatherings and soon it seems impossible to even consider making a moment of time for ourselves, let alone our neighbours. This is no small challenge.
Leslie A Perlow writes about the low level guilt that comes with trying ourselves to balance it all. She says so many self-help books say that we can just work harder at this, all sharing the same refrain, “your life could be better, richer, fuller…if you change the way how you work and live.” Yet for all the technology we put in place, and self-effort, why do our days seem busier and more complex? Where is the peace and where has the time gone? Perlow suggests that there is something else at work, and it is the work of the community to help you make time. She calls it, Predictable Time Off, and it is changing how some people live.
Predictable Time Off is simply the idea that we can work together to set time in our lives when we all might be around. In the good old days, Saturday and Sunday were for mowing the lawn, visiting with friends, going to church, or hosting a roast beef dinner. These were predictable days off for most people. Today these days are growing thin as more people work side jobs, shift work, and lead increasingly complex lives. The assumption that your neighbours might be home on a Sunday afternoon is not a given anymore, not even close.
This summer our kids would watch for the garage door of the home down the street where their friends live. If the garage was open, it was seen as an invitation to visit. Likewise, if we were sitting on our porch, the neighbour kids knew they could come and stop by. In an era of busyness, we are finding new ways to make time and let others know we are around. Today we host games nights, connect much later in the evenings after the kids are in bed, and because we all have to eat, we find ways to eat together. It’s not easy, but it’s intentional.
At a deeper level we are realizing that finding time for others may be less about trying harder, and more about shifting our desires. We are learning that the demands of busy-ness may be stealing more from us than it is giving. In the race to optimize our lives, we may be losing something precious. In giving up something and opening our schedules for moments of rest, we are making time for new possibilities that are pleasantly out of our control. There is an art to making time, and it is worth practicing. The joy we get from impromptu get-togethers is rich, and something we cannot buy. Together, in our neighbourhoods, we are given a place to allow these special moments to happen.