In many of the countries we live, people go to multiple markets to buy what they need to feed their families every day. The large grocery stores are often for paper goods and dry goods but typically locals have their favorite produce stall and butcher shop in the village.
While we have changed how we shop in dramatic ways, we still find we have way more items in our cart than the locals who are cart-free and holding only one or two items. On a typical trip to the grocery store, we will let three or four people go ahead of us so they don’t have to wait while our myriad of items pass through the cashier.
Last week something amazing happened.
A young man, carrying a few fresh rolls and some sliced cheese lined up behind us. As is customary, we waved him through using our best attempt at Portuguese “Por favor vá” to which he simply replied in his best English, “I have time.”
We just stood there staring at him. What was it about those three powerful words capable of transforming an ordinary moment into something extraordinary? Why did those three words, in my native language, sound more foreign to me than anything else in this foreign country?
We walked home silently, carrying way too many groceries, thinking about our relationship with time. Time is running out. I don’t have time. Do you have time? I am out of time. There is never enough time. Time flies.
We started talking about examples all over the world where people communicated “I have time” through their actions.
- In Southern Italy locals would triple park and duck into a local cafe for an espresso. When they came out minutes later, the cars waiting to pass waved in greeting versus honking in frustration.
- In Mexico, during The Festival of Our Lady Guadalupe, crowds would part around children playing on the sidewalk. Instead of communicating the children should play somewhere else, adults would pat the children on the head or gently touch their cheeks.
- It is not uncommon in a Spanish square for kids to play “football.” When the ball accidentally hit a cafe table or an elderly couple, they kicked it back and said something in good humor.
- In our neighborhood market in Thailand, the older ladies would bring one item at a time up to the cashier. Sometimes it would take 20 minutes for them to complete their routine back and forth. No one ever expressed displeasure waiting, and in fact showed complete respect for elders regardless of the time spent waiting in line.
The examples are abundant and yet the three words, “I have time,” still feel magical and foreign. We talked for hours about the possibility of greeting what matters most in our lives with those three words. What if not just through words, but through our pace and our interactions, we told the world, “I have time.” (Tweet this)
I have time for myself.
I have time for my family.
I have time for my children.
I have time for nature.
I have time for meaningful work.
I have time for others.
I have time for art.
I have time for music.
I have time, I have time, I have time …
The alternative is someday asking the question, “How did it get so late so soon? -Dr. Seuss