The hunting weapon was parked on the side of the road, barely visible to a hurried driver, used to patiently stock its prey. It was a stealth black Ford Explorer, with faint markings, just enough identity to meet what relevant laws demanded. Suddenly, lights were flashing, sirens blaring, road gravel spitting from underneath its spinning rubber tires. A potential victim was caught, but who?
“What’s the rush” were the words penetrating my wannabe deaf ears?
I had not given myself enough time to attend a 10:30am appointment. So, I was gratified that my NASCAR like driving habits on the highway did not yield any accidents or misfortune. That is, until I stopped, turned right and merged onto the town’s main street. My destination was only 500 meters ahead. As I parked the car on the far right of the road, out of harm’s way, my close victory was becoming an unwelcomed loss.
The police officer informed me they had clocked my vehicle traveling 85km in a 50km zone. There was no point in arguing against my unbelief. How could I have possibly accelerated so quickly while driving a 4 cylinder Mazda 3? After a painfully long wait, he confidently submitted a green piece of paper with all the pertinent details carefully outlined but only the wasteful dollars and expired points mattered to me: $265 and 4p, respectively. I tried desperately to temper my anger, diffuse my frustration and bury my pride as I exited the road’s shoulder, on to the main street and then into the driveway of my contact. But 60 seconds was not long enough.
What did I gain by such useless and careless behavior? By rushing, I stressed. The avoidable stress cost me dearly. The last words of the caring patrolman were spoken to me firmly: “SLOW DOWN!”
What does it profit me, or us, to rush through life? Does it matter if I am first to reach a chosen destination, accomplish a specific task or achieve a particular goal? Does it matter if I am second, third or last? Certainly, there are deadlines where time is of the essence and a sense of urgency is demanded of us. Careful project planning and time management allows us to achieve our goals and responsibilities successfully. But how much of real life have we missed or do we surrender because we exceed an unreasonable and all consuming speed limit?
Today is the first Monday of September. Throughout North America, it is called Labour Day. Labor Day is a federal holiday. It is customarily viewed as the end of the summer vacation season and then school restarts. No work is assigned to us, other than what we place on ourselves. The day should really be called “Slow-Down Day” because, as summer’s end draws near, and we settle into a more hectic pace, that is what we need to do-slow down.
An article (paraphrased) “Why Can’t We Slow Down?” posted April 7th, 2015 on emotiuonallyhelathy.org states it clearly:
“Slowing down can be terrifying because doing that which is deemed unproductive leaves us feeling vulnerable, emotional exposed and unworthy. Overworking hides these feelings of inadequacy or worthlessness, not just from others but also from ourselves.
As long as we keep busy, we can outrun that internal voice that says things like:
· I am never good enough.
· I am never safe enough.
· I am never perfect enough.
· I am never extraordinary enough.
· I am never successful enough.
· I am never rich enough.
· I am never beautiful enough.
· I am never acceptable enough.
Do you recognize that (lying) voice?
Far too many of us use “workaholism” to run from these shaming messages. When meeting someone for the first time we usually ask, “What do you do?” We ask because, in our time and culture, identity is defined in large part by occupation or job title. It is how we typically define ourselves and how we understand our place in the world. We also classify and value people based on what they do, how much they have, where they live and what titles they possess.
Part of who we are is what we do. But that it is not the deepest truth about who we are. We are first of all human beings-people created equal in the sight of all. But when things get switched around and our role or title becomes the foundation of our identity, we are reduced to human doings. And when that is the case, slowing down for ourselves, and for others becomes almost impossible to do.”
The sun is covered by grey clouds this Labour Day morning. There is an autumn chill even though summer has not left. The sound of dripping rain falls from water drenched trees. A brisk wind travels along the water’s edge. There are no sounds of boats, jet-skis, chainsaws, hammers or woodcutters. Human voices have not yet been raised from their slumber. It is a very beautiful moment but not as many would define it. There simply exists an unusual quietness. A message is directed at us, words not spoken but nevertheless penetrate the mind and heart: “Slow down, be still, and know that I am!”
I am not what the world has defined me to be. I am more.
I am not my job, I am more.
I am not my residential address, I am more.
I am not my degree, my title, my role. I am more.
I am not my race, my color, my religion, my gender, my age, my caste. I am more.
I am not my money, I am more.
To my wife I am a husband. To my kids I am a father. To my kids’ kids, I am their past. To my friends I am a friend. To my employees I am a leader. To my students I am a teacher. To the world, I am a role model of how life is to be lived and shared. Through life I am an experience.
I don’t need to race to the finish line. I just need to finish well and be determined to enjoy the journey. So, on this Labour Day, slow down, be still, and know who you are is not defined by the varied extent of what you do and how fast you do it, but by the wonderful experiences that forever measure how well we have lived.