From the book Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, author Atul Gawande states “We’ve been wrong about what our job is in medicine. We think our job is to ensure health and survival. But really it is larger than that. It is to enable well-being.” Gawande is a surgeon who has worked with hundreds of patients in their final years, and he stresses the importance of the quality of days, versus the amount of days people have left. Often, it is the interaction with others that add purpose and meaning to one’s life.
The first time I realized the importance of giving my time and attention was the year I lived with Nonna, my 86 year old Italian grandmother. Before I moved in, Nonna was living on her own, completely independent. She filled her days with cooking, reading, cleaning, and when she drove her car it would either be to the grocery store or mass at St. Leo’s. I moved in with Nonna shortly after graduating college. My new job required me to go back and forth between first and second shift hours. When I wasn’t working, I filled my time with volunteering, social activities, and exploring my new surroundings. It often felt like I was coming and going, in and out of Nonna’s house with very little interaction. My days had very little routine to them.
Those first few months I held on to the idea that simply living in the same house as Nonna was helping her out and providing some sort of companionship. Whenever she was out of something, I would run to the store and pick it up. If her driveway needed shoveling I did that for her, so that she wouldn’t have to pay someone to do it. Then there was the time I brought food home from a restaurant, thinking she would enjoy something different, that she wouldn’t have to make. Had I spent quality time with Nonna, I would have known that she enjoyed her long trips to the grocery store. Even though she complained about her arthritis almost daily. A once a week trip to the grocery store was a part of her routine she looked forward to. Just like paying the neighborhood kids to clear her driveway every year. When it came to food, she saw no need to go to a restaurant if she could make the food better herself. I thought I was saving her time, but cooking in one of her two kitchens was time well spent.
After only 6 months of working at my new job, I was forced to make the hard choice of leaving. The job presented too many dangers that I was not prepared to handle. With no other job lined up, I spent my days constantly looking and applying for something else. This also meant that I had much more time at home. The next two months of unemployment were the best times spent with Nonna. I learned to cook pasta, pizza and bread from scratch. I would attend an early Sunday morning mass with her, and then go to my church afterwards. Nonna would drink coffee every morning, as part of her daily routine. When I suggested we go to a coffee shop she was reluctant, but after ordering a cappuccino she discovered this was something she could not make at home, and it became a part of our Sunday routine. I will never forget our time after a long shopping trip at the mall, on our way back I suggested stopping for fast food at McDonalds. I told her I wasn’t ordering us a meal, that it was just a snack to hold us over until we got home. As I pulled into the parking lot, she asked me why I wasn’t parking, I told her that I was using the drive through. Nonna was amazed, and told me she had no idea they could hand you food out the window so fast.
Moving fast seems to be the way people live their lives. Doing as much as we can, to save our time, only to fill it with something else that takes it. I believe our relationships with one another have also been impacted by this. I learned a slower way of living with Nonna, her routine was purposeful to her. Doing less meant that more things were done right. It meant waiting to greet the mailman to hand her the mail, instead of having it left in her mail box. Regardless of how fast we are, relationships take time, and effort. One of the biggest blessings you can give anyone, is your time.
This week, exercise the gift of availability
In this final week before Christmas, don’t succumb to all the frantic rushing. Exercise the gift of availability by slowing down and spending time with someone. Make yourself available and offer the gift of your presence. Perhaps use the suggestions below:
See what people are saying about Trinity. Read and watch testimonies.