Over the few years of my life, I have encountered many people who were enthusiastic over one thing or another. Sometimes they seemed too excited over whatever it was than I thought was necessary for that thing.
Young children tend to be the most enthusiastic people…ever. With regards to energy, they are also quite well off. Whether the energy fuels the enthusiasm or vice-versa is hard to tell but one thing is for sure, the two are inseparable. A part of it has to do with the fact that life is significantly “newer” for children than adults.
I’m laid back, or so I’ve been told. Years ago I gave a message that seemed particularly compelling to me and I thought I delivered with unusual excitement and passion. Afterwards someone came up to me and said, “I really like your teaching; your style is so laid back!” So, the middah of zerizut presents a particular challenge: not just doing the right thing but doing it with zeal.
About 20 years ago, I was having lunch with a local director of a large well-known ministry. He asked me how many hours a week I put into my work. After thinking about it, I told him, on the average, I put in fifty hours a week. He smirked and condescendingly commented that it was a “light week.”
I can recall a time when I was teaching my children a history lesson. We had begun a study on Greece and encountered the topic of the origins of the marathon. For those of you not aware of its origins, here it is in a nutshell.
In the 5th century B.C., the Persians invaded Greece, landing at Marathon, a small hamlet about 26 miles from the city of Athens. The Athenian army was more than outnumbered by the Persian army; this forced Athenians to send messengers to cities all over Greece asking for help if they had any hope to survive. The traditional origin of the marathon comes from the story how a man named Phidippides ran the 26 miles from Marathon to Athens to announce the Greek victory and died on the spot.
After one of my twin sons heard this story, he exclaimed with his usual dry wit, "Marathon? It should be called a death race." After we recovered from his comment, I realized he did actually touch on something. He was addressing diligence gone too far.
Diligence is one of the most underrated of human values. Some people think diligence is just being busy. It reminds me of the old Communist proverb. “We pretend to work, and they pretend to pay us.”
There is a lot more to being diligent than being busy. A good way to understand its importance is to examine what happens without it. The opposite of diligence is laziness, and neglect. One could argue that if I put off something until tomorrow, there is no big deal, because its my time and my life. However, it could be costly. If I buy an airline ticket, the longer I wait, the higher the prices go. I put off stopping to fill my gas tank, and the next day found the prices had risen by 15 cents a gallon. In an age of inflation, the sooner you make your purchases, the better. But this is not the worst part about not being diligent.
I recently added email to my cell phone capabilities and discovered that waiting in line will never be quite the same. If it looks like the line might hold me up for more than a few minutes, I flip out my phone, click a couple of times, wait while the little icon spins around for a few seconds, and then start doing email.
Last fall, my wife and I took a 10 mile walk on the Snoqualmie-Preston trail east of