It’s election day in New Zealand. We’ve done our duty by democracy, the signs are down or covered, and the airwaves are no longer clogged with politicians telling us how much better off we’d be if we only voted for them. To be fair, I shouldn’t complain about the electioneering. I’ve missed most of it this year, being absorbed in the needs and interests of family members at both ends of the age spectrum.
Since returning to work on Tuesday, I’ve been thinking about one important effect of spending quality time with people over the age of 88 or under the age of 2. The pace at which I live my life has rocketed back up to high speed again, casting the pace of the previous weeks into sharp relief. There’s no point in trying to hurry a toddler, and it’s downright cruel to try to hurry someone who is already frustrated with how long everything takes. So all I could do was slow down and enjoy the peace – the calm meditative quality – of moving slowly.
People often use the term ‘real life’ to mean anything that is frantic, probably grubby, usually involving danger or at least blood. Slums and crime are ‘real life’; violence and anger are ‘real life’. I think that’s horse hockey. ‘Real life,’ surely, (if it means anything more exclusionary than just ‘whatever actually happens to someone living’) means a life lived doing what makes us most human – the best humans we can be. And by that definition, time spent with children and old people is the most real that life can get. How would that be for a measure of electioneering promises: how will they make room for and encourage time spent caring for the vulnerable and the needy?
Tomorrow we begin Advent – at its best, a time to step out of the speed and the bustle we impose on ourselves most of the time. May God be with you and yours in your real lives this Advent.