I had an elderly friend some years ago who could make an entire day out of one small chore.
“What have you got going today? Think we have time to get together?”
“Oh, no. I don’t know how I’ll get everything done. I have to go to the store and get green beans.”
It became catchword for us, green beans, whenever we found ourselves filling up time with small things of little consequence, or using the need to do minor errands as an excuse for not doing something else. We laughed about it. How silly to make a ten minute errand the center of an entire day.
Now I’m retired, among the elderly, and it doesn’t seem quite so silly anymore.
“Have you got time for a beer tomorrow afternoon?”
“I don’t know. It’s a pretty jam packed day. I’ve got a haircut, and stuff.”
Green beans, it turns out, can take an awful lot of time. You have to plan for them, set the alarm clock to accommodate them, modify the daily routine to fit them in, and the first thing you know, green beans have taken up the entire day. They have to be fit in between the start of the day, which includes waking up sometime, leisurely drinking a couple of cups of coffee, Morning Prayer, breakfast, the paper (on the iPad, which, of course, means checking out Facebook too), maybe a little reading and then the necessary ablutions.
Holy Cow! The morning’s half gone. Time to think about what to do for lunch. Can’t let planning for that go to the last minute. Oh, and the car needs gas, I’ll need to squeeze that in.
OK, lunch over. How about a little rest to get ready for a bike ride, some gardening, maybe a short workout at the Y. You see? The afternoon is almost shot, and there is still a haircut to work in.
Oops! It’s five p.m., and you know what that means. And so goes another day of green beans.
Green beans are a wonderful tool for avoiding so many things, especially the things that truly need our attention. Everyone uses the green beans excuse, but we of a certain age have often honed it to a fine art that can insulate us from all but the smallest sliver of the greater world about us. Jesus chastised the Pharisees for straining at gnats. I wonder what he thinks about green beans. They serve pretty much the same function as gnats. Maybe I’ll think more about that tomorrow, if I can work it in.