The good use of leisure

Published 9:09am Wednesday, October 9, 2013

By Rev. Bob Henderson

When I was a teenager, our Boy scout Troop went to the New York World’s Fair. Two exhibits were really fascinating.

One was the Bell Telephone (now AT&T) exhibit which had, wonder-of-wonders, a push-button phone. Two  clocks were mounted on a wall, one above a “dial” phone and another above the new, modern, push-button phone. We were invited to call a number on each phone and see how much time was saved by using the push-buttons.

The other was the Westinghouse “moving theater,” which was later moved to Disney World. The audience not the stage rotated, showing the history and future of kitchens, especially all the “labor-saving” appliances that made our present kitchens more efficient as well as those we could expect in the future to further “improve” our lives.

There is no doubt that today we are more efficient. Microwaves cook in a fraction of the time of 60s technology. Rumbas vacuum robotically. “Smart” stoves and refrigerators all do a variety of things in ways we never would have imagined years ago.

In the rest of the house we have televisions in every room, computers, pads, weed eaters, wireless routers, We can monitor our houses, turn on lights and adjust the thermostat all from miles away – and the list goes on.

Yet there is a trade off. Zooming down the Interstate gets us there sooner, but everything looks the same – same trees, service stations, truck stops. No longer do we measure our trips by the uniqueness of each small town. Now we do it by mile posts and exit numbers.

No longer do we gather as a family around the single black and white TV and argue about what we’re going to watch. Now we just go to another room and watch another TV.

And what about all that time we save by having no-wax floors, efficient vacuum cleaners, weed-eaters, computers? Well, for the most part, what we have done with that time is learn to work at play, otherwise known as recreation. We rush here and there participating in activity after activity, filling up every minute with “fun.” Then we come home exhausted and stressed to collapse in bed.

Interstates, supermarkets, computers and the other conveniences of today’s society are here to stay. The real shame is that we can’t (don’t? won’t?) use some of the time freed to stop, to listen, to be quiet and relax, to sit on the porch (deck?) watching people walk by, to spend time with family just talking, to explore our inner being and begin getting to know who we are rather than using more frantic activity to hide from ourselves and exhaust our spirits.

It’s a shame we can’t see the gift of time we have been give by all our modern conveniences. Unlike people in past centuries and much of the rest of the world today, we don’t  have to constantly labor just to keep from starving. It’s an even greater shame we can’t (don’t? won’t?) use some of this “gifted” time to minister to our spirit, learn to “be,” try to get in touch with the part of God that lives within each of us.

“Being time” can enrich our lives, change our perspective and help us become more aware of ourselves, our God and everything around us. It is creative time that can help us notice details we have been missing, experiences manifested only in the silence of our hearts and spirits, knowledge that comes only by contemplating life, love, people and our purpose on earth and purposeless play which refreshes us.

Next time we buy a Rumba, a convection oven, a super-capacity washing machine or anything else that saves us five, 10, 30 minutes, why not earmark a little of that gift for leisure, for being, for getting in touch with ourselves, our families and friends and our God?


O God, in the course of this busy life, give us times of refreshment and peace; and grant that we may so use our leisure to rebuild our bodies and renew our minds, that our spirits may be opened to the goodness of your creation;  through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Prayer “for the Good Use of Leisure,” The Book of Common Prayer, p. 825 


The Rev. Bob Henderson is rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Wetumpka.

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