Make time for loved ones

I have just taken a week off for a staycation. I am not sure if this is an accepted word in Scrabble but it can be found in The Oxford English Dictionary.

Basically, it means “a holiday spent in one’s home country rather than abroad, or one spent at home and involving day trips to local attractions”.

In my case, it was just a week of staying at home to rest and recuperate, and to watch the many movies I recently ordered from Amazon.

It was also a time to appreciate the neighbourhood – catching up with neighbours and also checking out the local wildlife, which includes a family of kingfishers and a pair of green pigeons, during my morning walks.

And I was finally able to catch up with a long-lost friend for a meal.

She in turn introduced me to another friend and it was indeed a memorable occasion as the three of us happen to be cancer survivors. We simply connected.

In our socially-connected world, many of us can claim to have thousands of friends, but in the real world, the number of real friends probably can be counted on two hands. And a lot of it has to do with our management of time.

The word “staycation” came to me in an article published in the Washington Post on Thursday. The writer, Michelle Singletary, revealed that in the United States alone, more than 40% of all workers do not take the leave days due to them, leaving 430 million days of unused paid vacation a year.

Referring to these people as “work martyrs”, she wrote, “What’s wrong with you people? Get out of the office. Take some time off. You don’t even have to go anywhere, especially if you can’t afford it. Do a staycation, meaning you just stay home and relax. Kick back. But get away from those dreadfully long and boring office meetings, deadlines, projects and, yes, for many of you, co-workers who get on your last nerve.”

Wow. Well, I won’t go into the reasons why these work martyrs think that busyness is a badge of honour but suffice to say that for those of us in the working world, it is indeed a struggle to find time for family and friends when work takes up most of the 24 hours in a day.

Our connection with people via our smart gadgets can give us the illusion that we are still in contact with family and friends.

But there is a world of difference between sending a WhatsApp message to a friend in hospital – “Take care. Praying for you” – and actually being there.

There is a world of difference between auto-debiting a contribution to a charitable cause and taking time off to see how these people you support are making a difference in the lives of others.

How can we connect with people when we are physically stuck in a confined space, be it a cubicle, an office, or even a car?

We have to be out there to see and appreciate the real world, and also for chance encounters to happen.

In meeting my friend, I found a new friend. And even though we had just met, she felt moved to want to pray for my health. And so she held my hand, in a very public place, and said the most wonderful prayer for a friend who was a stranger just moments ago.