We were hitting our groove. Lingering a bit on each introduction and entertaining some small talk seemed taboo considering the packed agenda but we did it anyway. I looked up and saw we had four minutes remaining in our small group and with three people yet to share, the future became predictable.
In the past year, this same scene has played out numerous times. Small groups in virtual meetings can be rare opportunities for memorable fellowship in what can seem at times to be a sterile way of communicating, but there’s a problem. They end.
I’ve watched the time tick away as group members continue sharing, only for our time to come to an abrupt end. Seemingly tossed back into the large group, small group members send private messages of gratitude, expressing, “I wish we had more time!”
I’m struck by how many of us watch the seconds count down and either think it doesn’t apply to us or choose to ignore the reminder as if the meaningful dialogue will earn a pass from the main meeting.
This morning, as the snow was falling with gentle persistence, I stopped and made some imprints like a kid writing their name in wet cement.
The snow continued falling and filled in my footprints until the sidewalk all looked the same.
Many of my relationships the past year have been sustained by brief, honest, and sometimes emotional conversations at the end of which we part ways with hopes of connecting again soon.
Some days it feels like there’s not enough time and some days there’s too much.
At my best, I lay my head down on the pillow and exhale a peaceful breath knowing my seconds were cherished.
At my worst, I can’t even say my time was well spent because it was more accurately discarded with disregard for its value. Tasks were completed but precious seconds were sunk into a screen or spent on a cycle of thinking that could be broken with some awareness and care.
And then there are the days with no name. The days that end with some perceived victories or moments of gratitude and some intentional listening, but with an equal amount of distraction, staggering screen time reports, and uneasy feelings.
The common thread in them all is the constant of time.
The first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the United States was January 21st, 2020. Since then, over four hundred thousand people have died here and over 2.2 million worldwide.
The time continues to pass and can no longer be spent on “if only” – make the call, send the message, show the love, be the light for someone who needs it, ask for the help we need.
January 21st is also my birthday, a date that will now serve as a reminder for me that no amount of wishing can keep our time in this life from ending.