(Written December 12, 2010)
As I sit on an incredible spot in the world - a home about an hour west of San Jose, Costa Rica, looking out over the mountains to the distant bay and sea - listening to the breeze and the birds, knowing that 17 dogs are all quiet, I am slowing down from the pace of life that we have set for ourselves in the US, in particular in the northeast. There are many ex-pats living down here; the majority of these folks are retired, and many that I have spoken with say they have retired here because they cannot afford to live in the US where they spent their careers. (The irony of this is that, as more folks from the States come here to retire, the cost of living goes up here, but that’s for another day.)
I have asked folks how they like living down here. To a person, so far, everyone has stated they love it. Sure, there are issues they face (bad roads in some areas, for example, crime in cities – especially pick-pockets, and a somewhat chaotic government system), but one thing many say they appreciate is the simplicity of life. One person commented to me that many of the houses owned by “Tikos” (native Costa Ricans) are small, but this is not necessarily a reflection of wealth as it is priorities. He said that the culture here is much more about living simply. As I have experienced in just about every place I have been outside the US, I see much the same thing. People live at a more casual pace, seeming a bit more content with what they have rather than constantly pursuing what they don’t have.
As I was leaving for vacation, the idea of patience and taking time was very much on my mind. In the month prior to leaving, I had had a few experiences of Friends expressing an interest and desire in exploring peacemaking, social justice and hospitality in what seems to be an increasingly divided and hostile world, and what we as Friends can and should do to bring about change. In both cases in which I facilitated either a workshop or presentation, there was limited time, and in both cases, after the workshop/presentation, it was clear that not having enough time was a problem. Then, just before leaving for vacation, we had a board retreat at William Penn House that was all-about story-telling. We spent the day telling stories – individual as well as collective, as we learned the art of storytelling. We were gently guided through an awakening process – external as well as internal. It was a great day, and something we want to continue. In some ways, it was a transformational experience in terms of self-awareness and in knowing about others. I also know that there are folks within Baltimore Yearly Meeting who want to explore singing and story-telling as part of our spiritual and community development. So I floated this idea to folks, with the proposal of a two-day workshop. Time was quickly raised as a barrier. People want to engage in, experience and learn tools for transformation, but don’t want to take the time.
I understand the pressures of time, and how full our calendars are. And yet, as Friends, if we are truly to be a part of a broader community in which we bring a greater sense of peace, and we want to see a transformation take place in our community, we are going to somehow have to learn to take time. That in itself is a part of the transformation. We need to take time to let things sink in, see what sticks, and come together after a good sleep and “non-task” time. But when we don’t allow for time, we do great disservice and perhaps even harm to the work. Things become hurried. Comments are made without the time for understanding and listening. Instead of healing, people can leave feeling unheard and perhaps discounted. It’s like making a cake. You can have all the ingredients, mix them together, put them in the pan and put the pan in the oven. You may then do other things, but your primary task is still tending to the cake. If you let it slip completely from your consciousness and drift too far either physically or, say, by falling asleep, the cake is ruined and all that work is for naught. This is why I am increasingly convinced that, if Friends are serious about wanting to make something beautiful with all the gifts of the people in our midst – including the transformational workshops – we are going to have to learn to attend to the importance of allowing time to do its transformational work.