I’ve been working on a sermon for next Sunday that I’ve titled, Far from the Madding Crowd, and so I’ve been taking a lot of notes on things I read or hear or see related to being busy. A couple of weeks ago, I came across the very popular opinion piece in the NY Times by cartoonist and author, Tim Kreider, The Busy Trap. I won’t annotate or comment on the piece here, but I do recommend you read it, if you haven’t already. It’s pointed, insightful and humorous. Then earlier today, I listened to the “On Point” episode from last week called, “In Praise of Loafering.” Along with Kreider, Tom Ashbrook welcomed the writer and professor, Rick Bragg, who recently wrote an article for Southern Living , The Gift of Loafering.
While I appreciated Kreider’s article a lot and see it every day in my current life, it was Bragg’s thoughts that reminded me of my ancestry. Bragg is from Alabama and he spoke about relatives, friends, colleagues, people he knows who have not lost the ability to loafer. He distinguishes loafering from loafing; the latter is goofing off at work, something seen as an abomination. One loafering, in contrast, is one who sets off to do something with no plan, no expectation, no “to do” to get done. It’s the Sunday car ride. It’s sitting by the lake all day. It’s simply hanging out and taking in whatever it is that comes your way during the hanging.
I say that loafering is in my blood and I say that with a heck of a lot of pride. I will never forget the stories my Aunt Bea, my maternal grandfather’s sister, would tell of getting in her car and driving along on an errand and seeing a road sign that might say, “Nashville 150 miles” and thinking, “I’ve never been to Nashville” and onward she’d go. One day she and my grandmother (or my Aunt Thelma, I forget) showed up at our house after shopping at the Pottery near Williamsburg. This might not seem so unusual except that my Aunt Bea and Grandmother Brittain lived in South Carolina, a good 8-hour car drive from us in those days, AND we lived 90 minutes or so from Williamsburg. They probably riding along somewhere when one said, “Let’s go to the Pottery!” and off they went. Now that’s gotta be loafering if ever there was such a thing.
I said to others, after reading Kreider’s article, that I was so happy to read someone write that my non-busy life (meaning I live a life where I rarely feel, let alone say, that I’m busy) is not a sign of laziness, but of sanity. Now even more, I’m really happy to know I’m a sane person who also has a real chance to hone my loafering skills to perfection. It’s in my genes.
Bring on the still unplanned August vacation!
I laughed out loud reading about your relatives. My grandmother and great-grandmother would show up to say hi to me while I was at work, 4 hours from where they lived. “No, no,” they’d say, “we won’t come in, we just were out for a drive and wanted to say hello.” Then off they’d go.