What I Gained by Losing Time | Bus Stop Reflections

This morning I missed the bus I normally ride in to work on. As I approached my bus stop, I saw that the bus was already pulling away. As it rode off to pick up commuters who were actually running on schedule, I was five minutes and 50 yards behind.

It wasn’t a big deal; another bus comes in 20 minutes. But watching that bus drive away without me on it left me frustrated that I’d have to spend an extra 20 minutes WAITING. Annoyed with myself that I’d spent 5 extra minutes in bed, I scolded myself for not obeying my alarm.

The minutes passed, and the next bus came. But this thought remained: why am I bothered by lost time?

Lost time for the American individual is nothing short of a tragedy. We avoid it at all costs, creating to-do lists, purchasing planners, setting alarms, consuming posts about “life hacks” like candy. And when we do waste time, either by our own doing or, heaven help them, the hand of another, we’re frustrated. We rate the customer service rep 1 out of 10 because they took longer than we wanted to solve our problem. We declare the day a bust if we didn’t tick off the tasks we’d printed in our bullet journals. We measure the value of our days by productivity, and declare the day “a waste!” if we don’t reach the benchmark we’d set.

When I was in high school, I took a trip with my dad to Guatemala where we spent a week building homes through Habitat For Humanity. When we were there, there was a distinctly un-American treatment of time. For Guatemalans, punctuality and efficiency are not what’s valued. In the mid-morning and mid-afternoon, they intentionally stop their work to have a snack, shoot the breeze, take a walk. This lifestyle was so different from the breakneck pace I’d grown accustomed to, and let me say this: it felt right.

For Guatemalans, punctuality and efficiency are not what’s valued…This lifestyle was so different from the breakneck pace I’d grown accustomed to, and let me say this: it felt right.

My experience in Guatemala showed me that a different lifestyle and understanding of time doesn’t have to remain “countercultural.” It forced me to ask: why does a respect for leisure feel countercultural in the first place?

Do I actually believe that everything can be redeemed, or do I actually have my own set of parameters and guidelines in place, judging my own time and assigning myself a score for the day? Will I let my relentless pursuit of efficiency fall away, and see the truth that those 20 extra minutes I was had when I missed the bus could actually be the most important moments of the day? Moments for prayer, for reflection, moments where inspiration could strike.

As this week goes on, and I continue my journey deeper into adulthood, I want to become more like my Guatemalan friends. Live a life that respects time. Time is not a commodity. It is not our right, something we are entitled to. It is a gift.

It’s time for me to live more like my Guatemalan friends, who helped me more than I helped them. To embrace the lessons they taught me on what a good day looks like. To live and respect the present, no matter what pace it travels or what detours it takes.

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