In the Dominican Republic we spent quite a bit of time on the front porch sitting in rocking chairs and watching the world go by.
Neighbours would regularly shout greetings in our direction and we would respond.
It wasn’t exactly a high-energy activity for our children, but they made the best of it.
One day one of my children asked why there were rocking chairs in just about every front porch. And why do people spend so much time just sitting there? I turned the question around: “Why don’t people in New Zealand sit in rocking chairs on the front porch?” We thought about it. Maybe they’re too busy. Maybe privacy is valued more than greeting neighbours. I told them that it was common in many cultures to sit in a comfortable chair and observe the comings and goings, especially for older people.
But all generations would take some time out and sit observing what’s happening around them.
In colder places this sitting would often have occurred by the fire, safely protected from the elements. Therefore the focus would have been more on the immediate household. With increased literacy it became more common to read a book rather than telling stories by the fire. Televisions, computers and other screens have changed the focus. That is even evident in the Dominican Republic, where many people spend considerable time in front of their screens.
I think there is something to be said for letting time pass slowly occasionally, for taking time out to observe and to contemplate. Even better when we feel connected to others during those times. We certainly don’t have to feel guilty if not every moment of our lives is occupied. Indeed, in our haste to get from one thing to the next we can often miss the everyday. There is something beautiful when we are truly at rest—as we know true rest for our souls is only found in God.