Saturday, July 23, 2005

Taking people for granted

I have a friend in Winnipeg who will be turning 103 at the end of October. He is the "younger" friend of my late grandparents. We have been communicating by phone or by e-mail for the last six years since he was 97. Because of his advanced age, I am diligent about keeping in touch with him. I make a point of calling him up even though I may feel too busy, and it's hard to talk to him because he can't hear well. I find the time to write notes to him. After all, he's 102! How much longer can he last? In the back of my mind, ever since I met him in 1997, I've been worrying that he might pop off. I make him a priority.

I wish that I could say the same for the rest of my friends and family. There are so many times when I don't feel up to contacting people. I have too much work. I have a headache. I'm too tired. There's always tomorrow. I have all of the time in the world. Or do I?

D'Amour Road is dedicated to an acquaintance of mine who went missing and never resurfaced alive again. We don't expect people in their forties to disappear and die. Most of us in the First World expect to live well into our seventies and eighties. But are we living lives of quality where we have ample time for reflection and relaxation?

When I was doing my undergraduate work in psychology, I remember reading a book by Alvin Toffler called Future Shock. It postulated that in the future -- i.e. now -- everything would be automated. People would have so much free time that they wouldn't know what to do with it.

HA! I don't know anyone who has free time. Most people I know are working 50-70 hours a week, raising kids or traveling as part of their job requirement. Many businesses are now open 24 hours a day. Employees used to be able to take a break on the weekends or when they were on vacation. Now we have cell phones, Palm pilots, e-mail, pagers and fax machines. People feel pressured to be available when they really should be off duty.

It's hard to take time for ourselves. Some things have become antiquated like writing thank you letters or staying in touch with elderly relatives. Not everyone can decide that they will spend more time with their kids or skipping stones across a pond because they are being held hostage by their jobs. But all of us can take a hard look at the way that we spend our time because it's a fallacy to assume that our loved ones will always be there.

Recently, I heard of two people in their forties who died suddenly without any warning. Actually, one died and the other one is currently on life support, but has been pronounced brain-dead. We never know when our number is up or when we could lose the most important people in our lives. I would like to believe that I can start treating most, if not all, of the people in my life the same way that I treat my 103-year-old friend: as precious and temporary, thus, to be treated with great love and respect at all times.

Sigrid Macdonald

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