"Methinks I see the wanton hours flee, and as they pass, turn back
and laugh at me."
--George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham (1628-1687)
Were you to ask someone on the street, they would likely tell you that
time is constant, ticking relentlessly away at the rate of 60 seconds to
the minute, 60 minutes to the hour, 24 hours per day, flowing together
into eternity. They would be wrong, of course. As anyone who has dealt
with time up close and personal knows, it gathers up a head of steam as
the years roll by.
Advertisement - story continues below
In the beginning, time barely crawls. Do you remember waiting for
Christmas when you were four? The weeks counted down like years, the
days like weeks, and the hours like days. Finally the big day arrived.
Gifts were opened; toys played with. Then the realization: the eternity
of a full year stood between you and the next Christmas! Or perhaps you
remember Ms. Jones' third grade class? It was a fine spring day;
sunlight streaming in through the tall windows as you sat at your desk,
the lure of the playground visible if you craned your neck just right --
then the clock above the window intervening, its slow second hand
dragging you back to the lesson under way, while life passed you by.
Lunch, sunshine and freedom were too far in the future to even imagine.
Time feeds upon life. At first the years go by so slowly that we
hardly notice. Then there are boyfriends, girlfriends, graduations,
jobs, a family, and finally one day we realize that we are caught in
time's trap. There is a sense that the train doors have closed, the
platform is receding into the landscape, and the destination ahead is
uncertain. Some of our fellow travelers seem blissfully unaware of the
trip, carrying on as we once did; others fret worriedly, as if by their
expressions they might somehow alter our destination. A few ponder
quietly what it all means, while the train goes clickety-clack,
clickety-clack, day giving
way to night as we speed over the shiny rails into the future.
And what of our baggage? What have you brought along for the trip? I
find that with each journey into the new year I have accumulated more
things. At first I could manage them by myself; increasingly I need to
call the porter for help in negotiating the doorway from Dec. 31 into
the new year. My past projects, hopes, dreams, and too often my failures
have attached themselves to me and follow like a tail; there they are
behind me; a useless but familiar appendage that grows each year.
Together, they conspire to make passage into the new year difficult; a
dance that I and the porter must learn anew each Dec. 31 as we struggle
from the departing train and board the new one, lest the new year get
Some of the faces on the new train are familiar; some of the old ones
are no longer here. The scenery flashes by outside, while together we
unpack and rearrange the baggage we have brought with us from our
previous journeys. Soon we are engrossed in the familiar; the new passes
by our window with barely a notice, except a remark on the increasing
speed at which everything seems to go by. Yet the train has barely
gotten under way when a station call is announced, we begin to slow, and
the loudspeaker reminds us to get our belongings in order. A new train
awaits in the station at Dec. 31. So little time, and the journey itself
so swift; how will I ever get ready for the new year?
Advertisement - story continues below
A thought flickers through my mind that this year I shall leave all
my useless baggage in the departing train station. I will board the new
train unassisted, my baggage left neatly by the bench outside the
station. I will find new hopes and dreams inside the shiny new train. I
will enjoy the scenery, even though it passes more quickly than before.
I will focus on those around me, my fellow travelers. Together we will
chart our future and head bravely into the unknown; leaving the crutch
of the familiar and troublesome behind us.
Yet as I reach up for the handrail to board the new train, I turn my
head and see the rails stretching out far into the future. The
realization dawns on me that we are all bound for the same destination.
Our hopes and dreams determine little more than the company we keep on
the journey. I, like my fellow passengers, will travel this way only
once. The Engineer alone knows the final destination. There is a strange
freedom and peace in understanding that I am not in charge; that the
railway of life runs toward its destination with or without me; that my
duty and comfort is with those surrounding me. I board the train, and
notice that my baggage -- left at the station because it was so bulky
and troublesome -- has been neatly repackaged and placed near my seat on
the train. A note, folded in quarters, is visible tucked underneath the
handle of my suitcase. It bears the railway's letterhead and the
Engineer's signature, with His greetings and promise for the new year:
"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will
give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and
lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is
easy, and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30).