Finally finding time for church/temple in the space of summer
A girlfriend who attends St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church once told me how invaluable that one hour a week every Sunday morning was for her, to sit, reflect, pray, and be alone.
To hear her describe it, I wanted to go, too.
(I remember when my children were babies, the only time I was ever alone was three precious minutes a day in the shower — only the first half of the shower, mind you — before they invariably poked their heads in looking for me again.)
However, during the school year, I often find that temple is simply one thing too many for me to manage. During the school year, the children and I are so exhausted all the time, the roads are so long, the snow is so deep — that we never quite make it all the way across town to temple.
I know, I know, if I were a better person, I would find time to do it year-round like normal people. If it were higher on my priority list, I would make time for it like everyone else. Going to temple only once or twice year on holy days only (and late at that) is flimsy, tenuous, lame.
However, for better or for worse, summers are when the children and I finally get around to attending services every Sunday. I figure, better in the summer than never. Better some ad hoc religious education than none. Someday we will manage to keep it up through the rest of the year.
Seven-year-old Little Brother knows that this is a special time.
On Sunday mornings (only), he wakes up at 6:30 in the morning and asks, “Is it time to go to temple?”
I tell him that it is only 6:30 and he has two more hours before we have to go. He goes back to sleep and wakes up again at 7:30, “Now is it time to go to temple?”
No, one more hour.
He sleeps thirty more minutes and then gets up and gets ready on his own. (For a 7 year old, getting ready on his own is huge.) He does not complain about having to wear a collared shirt.
Every week, he packs a notebook and some crayons, “So I can draw a picture for Reverend.”
We sit by a window so that he can look outside in case he gets restless, but lately he needs less and less distraction to get through the hour-long service. Now he is singing along with the choir, following along in the book, trying to meditate on his own, peeking to make sure my eyes are closed, too.
When his teenage sisters manage to wake up in time to go with us, he proudly introduces them all around, “These are my sisters.”
I like that during the summer, I can go to temple without my phone or my watch. People ask after my parents. I have the time to make small talk with the church ladies. I have the space in my head to be able to offer to help. I can linger after services.
I also like having the chance to say the words of the prayers out loud, such as this straightforward passage from “Golden Chain of Love”:
“I will try to be kind and gentle to every living thing and protect all who are weaker than myself. I will try to think pure and beautiful thoughts, to say pure and beautiful words, and to do pure and beautiful deeds, knowing that on what I do now, depends not only my happiness or unhappiness but also those of others.”
Frances Kai-Hwa Wang is a second-generation Chinese American from California who now divides her time between Michigan and the Big Island of Hawaii. She is an editor of IMDiversity.com Asian American Village, lead multicultural contributor for AnnArbor.com, a contributor for New America Media's Ethnoblog and a contributor for Chicago is the World. She is on the Advisory Board of American Citizens for Justice. She team-teaches "Asian Pacific American History and the Law" at University of Michigan and University of Michigan Dearborn. She is a popular speaker on Asian Pacific American and multicultural issues. Check out her website at franceskaihwawang.com, her blog at franceskaihwawang.blogspot.com, and she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.