No. 2 – Time spent with people

Posted on: Friday 21st August 2015

A wise priest of pastoral instinct once said, “Time spent with people is never wasted.” What rubbish! We all waste huge amounts of time in the company of others. That just being in the same place as other people is, in and of itself, a good thing is an assumption that deserves to be examined.

Of course time ‘wasted’ can have its place. Not everything has to have a metric attached; the idea that everything has to be immediately and demonstrably productive in terms of clear outcome is equally false. Time spent with others can be simply companionable and comforting, can’t it? We don’t have to do anything together to justify being with each other,  but that doesn’t necessarily catapult the experience of being with others into the realms its feeling useful.

This summer, for many of us, the pressure of our daily preoccupation with work recedes for a week or so and we are thrown into the company of friends or family. Holiday time is upon us. It can be great, of course – but, for all our fantasies about how wonderful holiday times should feel, they can turn out to be a time of extra stress and conflict. Worse still, they can turn out to be flat and empty: surely time spent with those we live should feel good. What if it doesn’t?

Well, part of the answer may lie in being more intentional. Connections don’t just happen. Attention and care for others, and the capacity to receive care from others, aren’t necessarily our default settings, especially when we’re tired. Just being together doesn’t guarantee anything, other than the opportunity to make that time together into something creative, engaged and engaging.  In the end it is more about quality of time we spend together than simply the quantity.

What will you do this summer to take the opportunities you have of time spent with others and ensure that it is not time wasted?

At its heart, the Christian view of life is one with communion and community at its heart. Other than for the few who feel called to solitude (and there are very few true hermits), being with God and being with others are – for Christians – intrinsically connected.  Communion, though, demands more than just being in the same place as others; it is about actively making connection and sharing in that live which flows from God. This can turn time spent with others into something truly sacramental.                                    Fr Alan Gyle