HUNT COLUMN: It goes so fast

Published 4:18 pm Tuesday, December 12, 2023

As I write this, Christmas is exactly two weeks from today. It seems as if it were only yesterday that I was happily proclaiming that we had finally made it to my favorite third of the year, September through December. We have fairly zoomed through the intervening weeks, and it all feels too fast!

But that’s life, isn’t it? As youngsters, our school years and summer vacations seemed endless. Even college, though a mere four years, felt like a life and world unto itself. As the years rolled on, careers and children took center stage, and though challenges may have abounded, any parent can tell you that kids grow up in the blink of an eye amidst all the busy-ness.  

If you haven’t gotten to retirement age yet, I am here to tell you that these years fly even faster. Though I have worked part time and stayed plenty busy, and I enjoy a pace that’s a bit slower and more relaxed, each month feels as though it has barely started when suddenly it’s over!

During the Christmas season, my hope is to savor every twinkly light, joyous song, yummy treat, piney smell, Publix commercial (!), and moment of fellowship and worship. Yet it’s mid-December and busy-ness has gotten me behind on decorating, gifts, cards, and even listening to Christmas music. How does this happen? I wish my favorite time of year would slow down.

These feelings remind me of a monologue from a play that I loved to read and discuss with my American lit students, Our Town by Thornton Wilder. From Act I to this moment in Act III, one of the main characters, Emily, has journeyed from adolescence to young love to marriage, and, sadly, to death in childbirth. An unusual aspect of this story is that in Act III Emily realizes that, before she leaves Earth behind forever, she has the ability to take one more look at a scene from her life. She picks a fairly ordinary day, and it doesn’t take her long to realize a profound truth. She says, “I can’t look at everything hard enough…It goes so fast…We don’t have time to look at one another…Oh, earth, you’re too wonderful for anybody to realize you.”

Emily goes on to ask the “Stage Manager” (an omniscient character who directs the actions in the play), “Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it? Every, every minute?” He replies, “No. The saints and poets maybe. They do some.”

If the play is performed (or taught) well, audience members or readers should not be left feeling depressed about our inability to live life to the fullest, but rather with the inspiration to go forth and try a little harder to do so. And to remember that every day, even the most mundane, is full of blessings.

This message reminds me that even though I might not end up being able to listen to every carol or set out every decoration or send out every card or bake every cookie or visit with every person I might like in the next two weeks, I must relish the moments that do happen and not dwell on what doesn’t. When my favorite time of year cycles past once again, I must remember to embrace every average day. I must strive to be like the saints and the poets, finding beauty and profundity in the smallest of things. That may just slow time down a bit. Merry Christmas!