Rain is pounding down in sheets, as it does here in South Florida on many summer afternoons.  Amidst the rain, a visiting cormorant is still sitting under the spray of the fountain, where it has been for the last few hours, its head now tucked into the feathers on its shoulder.

Last week, in the arid Black Hills of South Dakota, I was sitting with my cousins, feeling the day growing hotter and drier.  It was a gift to be together, especially since, for us, it is rare to be in one place and have time to live in our family connectedness.

I found myself saying what was on my mind.  I said that I feel concerned about what is happening to the things that take time.  In a society in which there is so much emphasis on speed; in an economy in which doing a lot in less and less time seems to have more value than quality; in an intellectual millieu in which having and getting information gets more attention than actual thinking or reflection; surrounded by media that are speeded up, and urge us toward more– what will happen to those things that take time?

Learning takes time.  Healing takes time.  Growing takes time.  Thinking about issues of public policy takes time.  Building relationships that are flexible and resilient takes time.   Even making a good meal takes time.

Being a family of educators and counsellors of various sorts, we were readily able to identify ways in which our work is affected, and made more difficult, by these currents that would have us NOT take time for important things and central parts of life.

The occasion that had brought us together was the marriage of one of their children.  (Creating an intimate relationship together surely ranks very high on the list of the things that take time!  Maybe this was the underlying factor prompting me to think about all of this.)  Later that day, the wedding ceremony itself took place, and, surprisingly, but aptly, the text was from “The Velveteen Rabbit” by Margery Williams.

“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

“I suppose you are real?” said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive. But the Skin Horse only smiled.

“The Boy’s Uncle made me Real,” he said. “That was a great many years ago; but once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.”

Love, fidelity and time are required for so many, many things to become real (and not just temporary play-things) in our lives.  May the happy couple, and all of us, take all of the time we need!

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