Useless Moments

For a homeschooling mother like myself, time is a precious commodity, so it is vital for me to make the most of my time.  Yet I have found that rushing around in a frantic daze is not the most efficient method, even if it seems so on a short-term basis.

Busy as I am, I have learned it is important to make sure I appreciate not just the destination, but each minute of the journey also.  For example, if I need to pick up something at the store, I could drive there as quickly as possible, chafing at every stop light I encounter, dash into the store, purchase the desired item, and dash home again, chafing again if I can’t find what I want or, if I do find it and the check out line is slow-moving.  This might seem perfectly justified, considering the number of things I have to do.  But this behavior is not beneficial for my peace of mind or for my family’s.

Say, instead, that I take my daughter with me.  This will necessarily take longer, if only because of buckling and unbuckling the car seat, not to mention that small legs take smaller steps.  Nevertheless, it will provide a thrill for my child to take a trip by herself with Mommy.  Instead of drumming my fingers at the red lights, I can talk or sing to her.  When we enter the store, we don’t just grab the item we want, but we browse through several aisles, looking at and discussing whatever catches our eye.  If there is an escalator, we take a ride.  Then we head home.  In this example, even if we don’t find the thing I went out to get, the trip hasn’t been a total loss; I have shared time with my child, and it has been a fun and educational experience for her.

Of course, I can’t always take a child with me when I go out.  I don’t always want to.  Sometimes I just need a little time to get out by myself.  But even when I’m alone, dashing around madly isn’t usually a great idea.  How can I keep my interior peace when I allow little things to make me anxious?  I must try to be efficient without losing my peace.  And even if I don’t have a child with me, those moments waiting at a red light or in the check-out lane don’t need to be wasted.  These are precious moments if I only take advantage of them!  Instead of becoming irritated by seemingly endless delays, I can use these moments to speak to the One Who is always with me by making a spiritual communion, reciting a few Hail Mary’s for a special intention, or even a decade of the Rosary.  Once I said all five decades while waiting in line at Walmart!  Admittedly, my attention to my prayers was not perfect — but is it ever?  It was certainly better than not praying at all — especially since my frame of mind would probably have deteriorated pretty drastically at such a long wait if I had not been saying the Rosary.  I read once that Pope John Paul II asked Catholics not to be afraid of praying the Rosary in public; in other words, we shouldn’t always count on our fingers just because people can see us, if we have Rosary beads in our pocket or purse!  Naturally we don’t have to wave the beads around at all passers-by, but we should be mature enough not to feel embarrassed by this symbol of our faith.  Using a Rosary in public could even lead to an opportunity to evangelize if someone sees me and asks me some questions about the faith.  Even if no one asks questions, it could still be a method of silent evangelization.

Of course, we can teach our children to use these “useless” moments to pray, as well.  When my husband runs into the store, leaving me with a van-full of children for ten minutes, we usually sing or chat or say a decade of the Rosary.  Young children are often eager to join in, and then the habit is formed that older children will continue naturally.  Even if we don’t pray, the example we set by remaining calm and patient during sometimes exasperating waits will be a lesson that the children will long remember.

For a Catholic, nothing is useless.  Nothing needs to be wasted.  The littlest sacrifice, the tiniest good deed, and the smallest moment can be transformed into a prayer.  A smile for the cashier after a half-hour wait in line may get more souls out of Purgatory than you ever dreamed. 

The trip never has to be a total loss — not if you’re traveling with Our Lord.

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  • Claire

    Excellent article; really hits home.

  • Teresa Curley


    Teresa and I loved your article. I wish I had read something like that when I was bringing up my children. Keep up the good work!