It will be twenty years this August that I am in this “Land of the Free.” When I arrived at O’ Hare airport in Chicago, I felt I had just stepped into one of those American movies I had so frequently watched on TV: large cars, wide roads, tall buildings. People seemed friendly enough. Come winter, everybody walked fast, all bundled up and eyes low in the Windy City. Part of the cultural shock was to realize the way people interacted with one another. I was warned: Never talk about religion or politics. Limit yourself to the weather. That I could handle…for a while. How do you really know someone if you do not probe the deep questions? Anyhow, I felt lucky if I could get to the question about the weather! People seemed in such a hurry that even the opening question, "How are you?" barely got answered by an expectable “Fine” as they walked fast down the hall.
Twenty years later it didn’t get any better. The standard answer now is, “Busy.” People move even faster. Time is a commodity. Our schedules are “sinfully” overbooked. Are we really doing ourselves, our family, the people we work with any good by being so busy? What is so important to us to sacrifice our health, our relationships, and our sanity? What makes us think that by pacing ourselves we may miss out on the “things” of life? “Who” is walking around “doing” so much? How can we enjoy “doing” unless we are aware of who it “is” who is doing? We forget that God created human “beings” not human “doings.”
Being in touch with ourselves is hard. It takes courage and persistence to be quiet and enter the silence. Could it be that, by keeping so busy, we are running from God, ourselves, our neighbor? We may be very busy even in our churches and in our communities, and paint it with the golden strokes of altruism. God’s will is not for us to be depleted, but to experience life abundantly. Are we truly enjoying our busy life? Could it be that busyness gives us a false sense of fulfillment and purpose?
Getting in touch with ourselves allows us to know ourselves, our God, and our life direction better. Next time someone asks us, “How are you?” we’ll know what to answer.