As a busy mom, friend, daughter and employee, I have an amazing web of support and responsibility. I know “they” always say you can’t be all things to all people, and I’m not sure why I never really listened before. Well, it could be because I’m a Martha, wondering how all those Mary’s in the world have time to sit and have meaningful conversations, like a “lazy oaf.” If I’m not doing something, I’m wasting time, an opportunity. I have this anxiety that I am falling behind, not making progress, failing in some way for someone.
I consider myself the ultimate multi-tasker. Even as I write this, I am eating breakfast, cleaning the toy room and finalizing a project for work. I fold laundry when watching movies, which drives my best friend crazy, but she has yet to fold my laundry for me. I have begun “reading” books on CD in my car, as not even my commuting time can be wasted in silence, peace.
I always thought of myself as productive, efficient and effective. Then, someone did it to me. My friend multi-tasked my visit. When I arrived, we were interrupted by numerous phone calls and e-mails on the best/worst invention known to humankind, the iPhone. When our conversation was interrupted by one person calling on the landline and then that person was interrupted when the cell phone went off at the same time, I saw it. I saw myself in the mirror. What was so important that they/I couldn’t be truly present to one person? Instead of regarding myself as the master multi-tasker, I began to see myself as priority-challenged.
No matter how much I rationalize my busy pace, I need to slow down and take time for what matters and realize that what really matters is always a “who.” Jesus shows us all the time in Scripture. He turns systems on their heads to love and care for PEOPLE. He was healing when he was supposed to be reflecting and resting for Sabbath. He was taking time to preach and talk to others when he was supposed to be making his way to another town. What if Jesus was too busy taking phone calls and never took the time to speak with the woman at the well? What would we have lost had the disciples been texting while Jesus was sharing the Beatitudes with them? Presence to the people before us is so important. It is an extension of the Golden Rule.
The person in front of us is a gift and we are gifts to their lives, which is why we need to be present. So shut off that cell phone for the ones you love, give an undivided five minutes of your life to a good friend. Hold that time sacred, because it is. It is holy beyond measure.
(Erica Weber is the mother of two sons, and a member of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish on Milwaukee’s South Side.)