A Slower Tempo

Take your time and expect them to take theirs. Be very tolerant. Be as undemanding as you can. This slow tempo will help the contemplative side of your life: but if you get in a frenzy and want quick results, you will run into spiritual disaster. I repeat, disaster.

Thomas Merton, Seeds of Destruction, letter to a Papal Volunteer leaving for Brazil

Early yesterday morning I shopped at a warehouse store during their senior citizen hour. Yikes — yes — I qualify as a senior. I thought it would be a zip-zap-zoom trip. Nobody else would be there so I could grab my things and get home pretty quickly.

I was wrong.

It turns out that senior citizen hour at a warehouse store means that most of the shoppers are driving their shopping carts instead pushing them.

They drive slowly.

Down the middle of the aisle.

And stop frequently.

Zip-zap-zoom turned into wait-wait-wait.

I remembered taking my father to Target in past few years and he tried to drive one of those carts. I guess it’s not as easy as it looks.

I laughed when I read Thomas Merton this morning. He was writing to a volunteer heading to Brazil in the early 1960s. The different country, the different culture — it fit so perfectly with my shopping expedition. The slow tempo did indeed help the contemplative side of my life. I paused and listened to the Christmas music playing in the store. I prayed for patience when I realized that those one-way arrows on the floor don’t apply during senior hour. I prayed for a shopper who was struggling and short-tempered. I helped someone find something.

The warehouse store may not have been Brazil but it was another world.

What is Christmas, though, if not a venture into another world? The ultimate venture.

Lord, let me take my time and be tolerant,
not just at Christmas, but all the time.
Christmas is a good season to begin.
The world feels disastrous enough.
I don’t need to add to it.

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