A Long, Slow Work

“Haste makes waste,” they always said. And I knew it was true. I didn’t have to look far to find it. The half-finished scarf in the bottom of my drawer, a slightly crooked hem on a dress, and the dishes scattered across the countertop stand as witnesses against me. I stat something with every intention of doing it well, but before long, all I want is to finish. I race through the last steps and end up with a mess on my hands. Every time I turn around, though, there are voices screaming for more. More to do, more to learn, more to buy, more to be. I can’t keep up with it, but I try. I run around in circles trying to manage it all until I’m so tired that I can hardly remember life before the frenzy.

A few days ago, I stood in the greenhouse propagating parsley. I separated the shoots from one another and detangled their roots. Setting one in the tray in front of me, I added a scoop of fresh dirt and patted it down. The small plant stood tall, ready to endure whatever winter might bring. I did that twenty-three more times, then watered them in.

For the first time in a long time, I wasn’t overwhelmed by everything I needed to get done. I breathed in the sweet scent of the herbs in front of me and the fresh dirt on my hands. What a gift it was to be still.

These days, I’m learning that the things that are worth doing require me to slow down. Eating in a way that will help my body heal means I’m spending hours cooking. I’m finding sanity in the slow rhythm of peeling carrots and the beauty of a well-seasoned cast iron skillet.

I’m spending time on our urban farm, too, and learning as much as I can about where my food comes from and how to eat in a way that benefits the world around me. I’m reading the kind of books that make me crave a slower life. I can’t become who I want to be overnight, and if I keep giving in to the demands for more, I’ll never have the time.

I’m learning this about me, but I’m also learning it about justice. When I see a problem, I want a quick fix. Most times, though, there isn’t an easy answer. The only answer to the problems we’re facing is to slow down and settle in for the long haul. It means that I need to be willing to listen to the people I want to serve.

My job isn’t to be a savior, but to be a neighbor. Learning to truly love my neighbor doesn’t happen in an instant. It’s a long, slow, mundane process. And it’s beautiful.

So here’s to the long, slow work. Because in the end, it’s better for all of us.