The movie “In Time,” released earlier this year, is about a futuristic society in which time is the main currency. Poor people work to be able to extend their lives a few more days, while the rich stockpile time, living to a ripe old age.
You could argue that the film simply adds a dramatic edge to deals most of us make every day.
After all, the wealthy can already buy more leisure time and better health care, nutrition and safety, which often contribute to longer lives. The working poor essentially sell chunks of their time every day to make money to keep body and soul together. In this economy, many of us in the middle class are just happy when someone is willing to pay us to work 40 hours each week.
Unlike in the movie, we don't have clocks implanted in our arms showing us how much time we have left. Still, the film is a reminder that time is the one natural resource of which there’s a finite supply for each of us.
While we’re rooting for the retailers this holiday season, time has figured heavily into my family’s gift giving. Our perennially broke older son is planning to give his grandmother a certificate that entitles her to an afternoon of chauffeuring once he gets his driver’s license in a couple months. Macular degeneration has robbed most of her sight so she can’t drive anymore. Our younger one is giving his time in which he can read to her and help her with bills and other paperwork. Both presents will make her happier than any new pair of gloves or box of candy.
Not long ago, I was fretting over family finances and asked my husband if he thought I should look for a more predictable, secure source of income than freelance writing. We both know that would likely mean longer hours and less flexibility to manage the household and help my mother and our kids.
My husband took the pressure off, saying for now we’d figure out more ways to cut expenses. He pointed out that our older son will be leaving home in 18 months – heading for college and altering our cozy little foursome forever. “We have a year and a half,” he said. “You make what you make.”
So this Christmas I was given the gift of time. The trick is to use it well. As Carolyn Arends sings in her song “Seize the Day”:
“One thing I’ve noticed, wherever I wander,
Everyone’s got a dream he can follow or squander.
You can do what you will with the days you are given,
I’m trying to spend mine on the business of living. . .
“Seize the day, seize whatever you can, for life slips away just like hour glass sand.”
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Habari Gani to all you Kwanzaa celebrators. But most of all, carpe diem.