a time for everything

“for everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.”

ecclesiastes 3:1-8

this wrestling with time–and its powerful, fickle hold on our lives–is a defining part of being distinctly human. we wonder why the minutes seem to drag on at our eight-to-five jobs or in hour-long lectures, while the weekends blur by within what feels like seconds. kids yearn to skip their childhood to become teenagers; teenagers long for freedom and adulthood; young adults scramble to balance their priorities; parents aren’t even able to keep track of the clock.

these different stages of life seem to be racing from one to the next, without regard for the moments in between, moments forgotten and often taken for granted. but like the verses remind us, there’s a time for everything–for pause, for rest, for reflection.

when you stop and have a moment of introspection, time reveals more than just the passing of hours and days–it expands perspectives, uncovers internal truths and realizations about yourself and others, and connects you to people who might have otherwise slipped through the margins.

on my daily travel to work, I make a left at the corner of edwards and westminster. I usually get caught at the red, a time during which I often instinctively reach for my lip balm or glance at my phone. it’s easy to get lost in mundane habits on such a routine drive. but sometimes I notice the people who share this moment with me, this span of time roughly between 7:28-7:31 AM, where our worlds briefly collide and converge five days out of the week.

there’s the Hispanic kid in his late middle school or early high school years, who always carries a duffel bag, slung securely over his shoulder. usually wearing sports gear, he’s got a stocky build and a kind-looking face with an honest, hardworking, good-hearted quality about it. I’m not sure why, but he always puts a small smile on my face.

there’s the two older businessmen, whom I occasionally see exiting the nearby 7-Eleven store. dressed in wrinkled button-ups and loose slacks, they cross the street engaged in conversation, clutching on to their cups of coffee, likely crucial components to the start of their day. are they happy? I wonder.

there’s the young Asian guy who sits patiently at the bus stop, located a couple hundred feet from the 405-N freeway. his white Apple earphones frame his face, and he’s almost always wearing his navy blue hoodie with the letters CSULB embossed and outlined in yellow. one time, I saw him get dropped off in the parking lot adjacent to the bus stop; I wondered if it was his mom who, unable to drive him the full route to his school due to her own obligations for work, still lovingly took time out of her day to see her son off. I wondered why he didn’t have his own car, and if he had had to make the sacrifice in order to afford his schooling.

it made me think of my own privileges and luxuries: being able to drive a car that my dad paid for, or the fact that I had been able to afford to live walking-distance from my campus when I was at USC, or the insane reality that I don’t have a single penny of student debt because of my dad’s endless hard work. what did I do to deserve that? this seemingly meaningless, silent, and one-way encounter with the guy at the bus stop threw my life headlong into perspective and reminded me to always remain humble, grounded, grateful and content without grumbling or complaining over comforts I took for granted.

the assumptions of these strangers are exactly that: biased speculation into their lives of which I could be completely, and most likely, mistaken. nevertheless, these fleeting instances urge and challenge me to practice reflection, imagination, and introspection on a more regular basis in my life; it ultimately better equips me to discern and make decisions with a more sober mind. more often than not, we question the timing of events in our lives, and especially why we encounter the people at the time that we do. we wonder how we should respond to different, often painful circumstances that arise. is this a time to forgive and forget, to love and embrace? a time to filter habits, or even people, out of our lives? is this a time to simply pause, to grieve and mourn, and to heal?

give it time, the world will say. but it’s so important to first reflect and consider the purpose of this time. because the worst kind of time is one that is wasted.


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