There's probably not a person in the country who hasn't thought "too much to do, too little time to do it."
Our fast-food, instant-replay, everything-at-our fingertips, be-all-you-can-be culture has bewitched us into believing we can do more and more in 24 hours. Between jobs, school, church, sporting events, dance and music lessons, exercise, fund-raisers for everything imaginable, volunteer work, we try to live our real lives -- care for children, care for elderly relatives, cook, clean house, stay in touch with family members, cultivate friendships. Oh, yeah, and have some time for the fun stuff like skiing, fishing, hiking, biking, gardening, reading and all those other things we love to do.
The schedulers and list-makers who live among us have created elaborate systems to organize and track family movements to ensure everyone is where they need to be at the right time. Problem is most of the time family members aren't all together at the same time.
Is it any wonder we fall into bed exhausted every night -- half of our "to-do" list left undone?
It seems we are not only overextended on our credit (by some estimates, the under-30 age group has an average credit card debt of $10,000 to $12,000), but we also are overextended on our time commitments.
Residents of Ridgewood, N. J., decided to do something about their busy lives. Earlier this week they observed "Ridgewood Family Night -- Ready, Set, Relax."
Of course, it took an 18-member committee seven months, several meetings, a publicity campaign and appointments with school, athletics and church leaders to pull off a night free from homework, sporting events, practices and community meetings of all kinds.
But they did it.
Families ate at home -- together. Board games replaced TV. Some residents even put their telephones off limits.
The irony of having to plan a night off is lost on no one. Still, such a night out focuses attention on what's important: people, not activities.
Dr. Alvin Rosenfeld, a child psychologist and co-author of "The Over-Scheduled Child," had this to say about Ridgewood's family night: "It's a little oxymoronic, but I think it's terrific. I wish other communities would do it."
To give their children the best they can afford and sometimes in an effort to make children's schedules better match those of the working world, parents may be over-doing it when it comes to kids' activities. Rosenfeld told The Associated Press kids' free time has been "professionalized." The drawback with all those carefully planned and supervised activities is that kids may not be developing their own imaginations, he said.
Kenai Peninsula residents could learn from Ridgewood's example, even if they never have a formal "family night."
Think about it: When is the last time your family had a sit-down dinner together without the TV blaring in the background or the telephone interrupting you every five minutes? Do you enjoy spending time in the home you work so hard to provide or is it just a place to eat and sleep? Do you read with your children as much as you watch TV with them? When was the last time your family did something together that didn't require spending a dime? Do your kids have time to just play? Do you ever play with them?
Surely, if nothing else, the events of Sept. 11 should continue to remind us that tomorrow, indeed, is promised to no one. We suspect there's nothing the family members of those killed in the terrorist attacks wouldn't do for just one more hour to spend with their lost loved ones.
Time spent with family, just enjoying each other's company, is the stuff from which the best memories are made. Now and then we need to remind ourselves there's a reason we're called "human beings" and not "human doings."
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