“Time passes; listen, time passes”

With all the commemorations at this time of year: everything from the celebration of the century since the birth of Dylan Thomas to All Souls and Remembrance Sunday, one is reminded that “time passes.” What, however, really makes me feel that time passes; indeed that time is running out, is when I hear of some future project being discussed in government and realising that I will be dead before it ever comes to fruition.


There is a tipping point in every human life when we realise that our time of greater energy and creativity is behind us, Not that we don’t have energy, creativity and, it is hoped, the wisdom that comes with the passing of the years, but that we just don’t have time; time to see the outcome of a favoured project. What do we do then? Do we simply not bother because “I won’t be around to see it.” No, indeed! This is the moment to realise in depth, if we have never realised it before, that we do not live for ourselves but for every other. We do not create for our time alone but for the future.


I came across a marvellous saying the other day. It was a slogan from the 2008 US presidential election. It said:

“Rosa sat so that Martin could walk. Martin walked so that Obama could be elected.”

Rosa was Rosa Parks, the black woman who in 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, refused to give up her seat in the coloureds’ section of the bus to a white woman when told to do so by the bus driver, and was arrested. Her act of defiance led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott which fuelled the civil rights movement in America, raising its profile and allowing Martin Luther King to make progress. What Martin Luther King did led eventually to the election of the first coloured president of the United States, President Obama. But Rosa did not act on her own. She was the local secretary to the NAACP, the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People, a civil rights movement that was formed in 1909! It took 99 years of civil disobedience by many people to come to that place where America could vote for a coloured president.


Earlier this year a dear friend died whom I didn’t meet until after his retirement. What he didn’t know anymore than any of us know was how long he would live – it turned out to be a over thirty years. During that time he gave his energy and commitment to many things: the ordination of women to the priesthood, the Jubilee Debt Campaign, and Africa, which he loved deeply, having worked there for many years. He was thoroughly committed to justice issues. His pre-retirement life was full of incident but for me, who only knew him after his retirement, he seemed to live a lifetime when he stopped working!


Yes, time passes for us as individual souls; but for each one of us who recognises that we are so much more than a particular and exclusive self, growing older gives us the opportunity to let die selfish ambition and to nurture a love for others and for their well being which gives us a part in what is to come. What we do, the choices we make, continue to matter. We continue to make the future.