Saturday, December 31, 2011

To do or to be?

This past week I was at camp with the kids I work with at the Hogar. It was a fantastic week filled with lots of time at the beach, camp games, and of course a campfire. I was able to deepen my relationships with many of the kids. But as fun as the time with the kids was, one of the highlights for me was the conversations that happened with the other leaders at night after the kids had gone to bed. We would go sit on the beach, look at the stars and the waves and just talk about life.

One of the nights we were talking about the differences between American culture and Uruguayan culture. I described the go, go, go culture that we have. The pressure to always be doing something, that there is always something more or better that you can achieve be it a nicer car, a better job, etc. To not be “doing something” is often seen as lazy, a lack of drive. The Uruguayan in our group couldn’t even comprehend a culture like that. He couldn’t believe that we don’t have times where people just sit around talking or go to the park to hang out for hours.

Uruguay has a culture of being, not doing. When you run into someone you stay and talk for a while, even if there is somewhere you should be. Getting together with friends to “do” something usually means going somewhere like the beach, the park, the roof to sit, drink some mate or cerveza, and just talk for a couple hours. Sitting in the office for an hour or so with some coffee and talking is considered a good use of time. Time spent together with others is deeply valued and rarely seen as a distraction from what “needs” to get done.

This was something that took some getting used to for me. At times I still struggle with it. Feeling like I need to do something instead of just sitting around. Getting frustrated when I am at a meeting or a rehearsal and it seems like it will never end because people are “off topic” and talking about other things instead of focusing on the task at hand. I can feel my little American mind wanting to tell people, “come on, lets get this done first and then talk.” But I don’t say it. Because the relationships that are being built, the life being shared together is so much more important than anything else that we could be doing.

At orientation one of the former YAGMs gave us this piece of advice, “Remember the you are human being not human doings.”  As we transition into a new year full of busyness and doing, I challenge you to find times to just be. Be with family and friends. Be with nature. Be with God. To embrace the joy that is found in being with others and to release yourself from the pressure to get things done. I think you will be surprised by the blessings that can come out of just being.

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