Sunday, November 29, 2009

Busy-ness and the Death of Common Courtesy

One of my pet peeves is the ignoring of common courtesy.  When someone asks, "How are you?," the polite, appropriate response is something like, "Fine. And how are you?"  The reason for this is because "How are you" is a friendly, non-invasive greeting, not an invitation to recount the drama of your life in the freezer aisle at SunMart.

But these days, more often than not, when you ask someone how they're doing, they say something about being either busy or tired, and often both.  Sometimes you even receive a rapid fire version of that person's schedule.  When I receive an answer like this, I am always a little bit sad to see our society's lack of basic courtesy.

And yet, I am guilty, too.  A few Sundays ago, I was steered into our pastor's office just before service by my daughter's need to raid his M&M jar.  He is a good friend, and when he asked me how I was doing, I could not stop myself.  I rattled on about how I had just taught and had to work after church and then come back for an evening event.  Even as the words were coming out of my mouth, I was embarrassed at myself.  I have wondered since then what in the world came over me.

My conclusion is that I am the product of a culture that values busyness.  Our society prizes productivity.  How often have you heard "multi-tasking" used as a bragging right?  How much advertising is aimed at our desire for organization and efficiency?  Our busyness has become our golden calf, an idol that we parade around in our rush to get from one place to the next.

As a result, we feel overwhelmed and overworked, so it's hard for us to focus and be fully present for those around us.  We spend ourselves on keeping up with our busyness, and we have very little left over to give to our spouses or our families, much less our friends or our churches. Worse,we often feel guilty for taking time to do the things that refresh our souls (whatever that may be; more on this in a coming post).

We get very little rest.  The lucky among us may get a nap on Sunday afternoon... but is that what God had in mind when he gave us the Sabbath?  The Genesis story tells us that God rested--was that for his benefit, or ours?  Are we so much better than him that we don't need to rest as he did?

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