By Michele Latham
Do you remember All I Really Need to Know I learned in Kindergarten? I read this book in the late eighties when it was first published and thoroughly enjoyed it! Robert Fulghum took the simple rules we learned as kids and applied them to life as adults. Things like “Play Fair” and “Clean up your own mess” became moral, political and environmental precepts when viewed through a grown-up lens.
I can see the wisdom in Fulghum’s premise. The book is humorous, but rings so true. Adults tend to complicate things. Some of the simple lessons I taught my kids when they were growing up are still relevant today and worthy of applying to my own life.
One such rule that I worked hard to instill in the children was “take time to be quiet.” When compiling their daily to-do lists, I always included quiet time. There was more behind this idea than just wanting a little mid-afternoon break for myself, although that was a happy side effect! I wanted them to be cut off from the craziness of the world. Just for a bit. And by craziness I mean noise. We had limited technology back then, but there was a computer in the house, CD players, toys and lots of voices! (Do all kids talk really loudly and all at the same time?)
Quiet time involved going outside when weather permitted. Each child found a private spot in which to be alone in the quiet. Sometimes they took journals or sketch pads and climbed into the branches of a tree or sat in a shady spot next to the shed. I wanted them to have a chance to hear their own thoughts and form their own ideas and to pray. As you know, it can be really hard to pray in a high-tech world.
After 30 minutes, the timer sounded and I called them in. They always returned looking happy and energized. I never asked what they thought about or what they wrote in their journals. I knew it was time well-spent.
So now the challenge is to include “quiet time” on my own to-do list. I usually start with some writing, which is good. Then my unplugged brain can move on to other things such as appreciating a walk outside or composing a quick note to someone I haven’t been in touch with for a while. Sometimes, more practical thoughts appear in the form of cleaning lists or ideas for things I’d like to do or make. It’s all refreshing because it’s coming from my own brain, not an electronic screen.
Then, it never fails, my mind and heart turn toward the prayer corner, which is where I should have started. My thoughts have slowed and uncluttered which seems to clear the path to prayer. This is a quiet place where time is well spent.
Correction: a quiet place where time is best spent.