I have come to believe that my generation is just too busy. Our children are rushed from one activity to another with hardly the time to breathe between. Some time ago, I came across a post or link on Facebook (I honestly can not recall) that discussed the glorification of busy. I wish I could find that post now, but The ‘Busy’ Trap is another great article that touches on the same topic. Ooohh .. the words in these posts hit me like a ton of bricks. It feels like everywhere someone is ‘bragging’ about how busy they are .. rattling off their to-do list with pride. I admit, I have been guilty of this myself but I have made a conscious effort to combat this tendancy.
When I’ve encouraged friends to join the Sons of Norway lodge or invited them to join us on our Roots & Shoots outings, the common response is we are just too busy. When I have tried to make plans with family to get together for holidays or even just because, there is always something else that keeps them away (if they have kids, it is frequently sports or school).
When did busy become synonymous with value? Are we too busy to connect with others and to make a commitment to community and family? I fear we have lost our balance.
Most Sons of Norway lodges celebrate the holiday season with an annual Jultrefest. This past weekend, my family and I drove to Central Oregon to visit friends and to attend Fjeldheim Lodge’s annual dinner. So many people wish to attend the dinner at Fjeldheim that for the past several years, they serve three consecutive dinners (80+ people each night) – complete with a Santa Lucia procession, singing of carols in Norwegian and English, recitals by the children, and a visit from Santa. It is a beautiful evening and a highlight of our holiday season. It is no wonder that so many people attend.
The weekend prior, we attended our local lodge Jultrefest. Though only one night, there were over 90 people attending. While these numbers may seem impressive, the lodge officers like myself know that it gives a false sense of involvement. Look around the room and the faces are essentially strangers. As children or grandchildren of members, this is the only lodge event they attend all year. They do not see the value in joining the lodge themselves or they simply do not want to commit. It saddens me because the lodge is a wonderful place to connect generations – for the elders to share their knowledge and skills with our youth. Yet lodges are closing all over the country as their memberships dwindle.
Are we too busy to commit?
The simple act of writing a thank you note is also a dying art. I know I stereotype here – but it seems to me that few people in my generation take the time to write notes of gratitude and thereby teach their own children this grace. We have attended many birthday parties over the years and have received a note of appreciation from the child only rarely. When one was received – would you be surprised to know that it was a homeschool child? I’ve spoken with other adults ~ members of the lodge, my own parents, and in-laws ~ and they confirm they seldom receive thank you notes, even from their own grandchildren.
Are we too busy to express our appreciation?
I plan numerous enrichment opportunities for local homeschool families – art shows, living history presentations, science fairs, and nature walks. In an effort to plan ahead and make the events as memorable as possible (I love to create buttons, clever programs, and certificates for the kids), I ask that the families RSVP at least two weeks in advance. I receive so few that I have in fact cancelled events thinking no one was interested – only to receive a wave of calls lamenting my decision and begging me to reconsider. There have even been times when my kids and I show up only to discover we are the only ones. This is difficult to understand and even more difficult to explain to the kids.
On the other hand, I have also been surprised by guests arriving when I was quite unprepared. At a lodge dinner recently, a family I wasn’t expecting showed up, late no less. In addition, it wasn’t the mother and son who came, but the father who I had previously never met (the mother arrived an hour or so later). I was so thrown off, I didn’t know how to react. As a result, my husband (who due to a work obligation was expected to arrive after dinner) was not able to sit with us when he arrived a short time later.
Technology today makes staying in contact with others so easy. Why then is it so difficult to respond to invitations in a timely manner? Are we too busy?
Each year, our local lodge takes part in an annual multicultural faire at the local mall. The event is coordinated by the county Sheriff’s office with booths throughout the mall representing the many cultural groups and organizations in the community as well as a stage for entertainers (dancers, musicians, and martial arts demonstrations). My daughter stayed with me at the faire all day – from 8 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. My son volunteered from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. He went home with his father after the grand march. On our drive home later that evening, I asked my daughter why she chose to stay with me. Her reply was, “I wanted to stay because I wanted other kids to see that kids are part of Sons of Norway, too. I thought that if they saw me having fun they would want to join, too.”
I love that she is so dedicated and so aware at such a young age, yet it saddens me. How can we encourage today’s youth to get involved? How can we show them the value of reaching out and connecting with others?
Are we too busy to get involved?
When we first moved to California, my son made repeated efforts to maintain a relationship with a boy he perceived to be a close friend. He wrote letters, sent postcards, and even mailed a gift in a clever package. Sadly, he never received a reply in acknowledgment. In time, he lost interest in writing knowing that his extension of friendship was not reciprocated. Relatedly, we mail over 100 Christmas cards every year to friends and family. We receive less than 20.
Are we too busy to reach out to others in friendship?
When I was growing up, I remember fondly family gatherings for birthdays, holidays, and any reason just to spend time with one another. In the summer, we had annual family reunions whereby we got to meet and get to know the families of my parents’ cousins – our extended family. My mother has 6 siblings and I thereby have many cousins .. most of whom now have children of their own. Christmas and Thanksgiving were huge … my grandmother’s house was literally overflowing with loved ones. My husband has similar stories to share of gatherings and traditions.
Today, the only contact I have with most of my cousins is on Facebook. Reunions are rare and poorly attended – for many, as jobs take us away from the communities in which we grew up, it is just too far to travel. Holiday gatherings with my parents and my brothers are short – we typically can find only a short window to meet for a meal at a restaurant; thereby there is little feeling of warmth and comfort. This is due in part to distance – I live 6 hours away from my siblings. Partly, due to circumstance – my parents divorced shortly before the birth of my eldest and we thereby haven’t really grown accustomed to the change.
I could write an entire post on this issue alone but much is personal. I feel though that we have lost not only our sense of cultural identity and community, but also our sense of family. I feel lonely. I miss the closeness we had as a family growing up. I miss gatherings with family to share in our successes and celebrate the children’s milestones. I miss my family.
Are we too busy to stay connected with friends and family?
What is important is balance
I realize that finding balance is difficult. I certainly don’t have all the answers. As a homeschool mom, we have to juggle our activities and make occasional accommodations in our schedule. I make service learning and volunteering a major part of our curriculum. When opportunities present themselves, we talk things over as a family and weigh our options. We have made sacrifices, passing on swim meets and formal lessons to connect with family and friends. As we strive for balance, I will keep reaching out but I can not do it alone.