What will you do in the New Year?

by Chad Prososki | Catholic Charities


Chad Prososki | Catholic Charities

According to the Department of Labor statistics on time use in 2016, Americans spent on average 5.13 hours each day in leisure and sports. Of that time, 2.73 hours were spent watching TV. Yet Americans spent only an average of 1 hour per week directly helping others (“Volunteering in the United States – 2015,” Bureau of Labor Statistics). Americans also spent 1.13 hours a week in religious activity, such as prayer. If they attend church on Sunday, that leaves only a few minutes to say grace a couple times a week.

In short, Americans easily dedicate five times as much of each day to recreation as they do in an entire week to faith or service.

As we look back at 2017 and consider both our accomplishments and failures, it helps to examine how we spend our time. Have you ever seen a breakdown of your time in a day or week? It can be an eye-opening exercise.

For instance, a week seems like a long time until you realize it is only 168 hours. Consider we spend around 67 of those hours for sleep and personal care (Bureau of Labor Statistics). Include another 8 hours for eating and almost 13 hours for cooking and housework. Add 5 more hours shopping. That brings us down to 75 hours already. If we work at least 40 hours in the office and maybe 5 more with the commute, that leaves us about 30 hours of flexible time for all other activities during the week. Even if we don’t spend as much time watching TV as others, we may have children or others to care for that need those remaining hours. No wonder we are such a busy society today.

Our time is also one of the key components of stewardship, along with our talents and treasure. Most of us are aware of the biblical tithe of 10%, traditionally taught to Catholics as giving 5% to your parish, 4% to other good works, and 1% to your diocese. Judging by recent giving statistics, this is a big challenge for many of us. If you aspire to give 10% of your treasure, look at what you are giving already and make a gradual plan to work your way to 10%. Before you know it, you may be more generous than you can imagine.

What would happen if we applied this same tithing principle to our time? Consider if we dedicated the same amount of our waking hours to faith and service as we aim to with our money. Could you imagine if each person in your parish gave 5 hours a week to help others through their church, 4 hours in other charitable works, and 1 hour to assist in diocesan projects? Parish and nonprofit leaders might wonder what to do with all these volunteers!

Lack of time is the biggest reason Americans don’t volunteer more. We might only exercise real control over our time a couple hours a night, and a free weekend can be rare. But if that is the case, doesn’t it matter even more what we do with each minute we have? Indeed, it is up to each one of us to consciously choose what we do with our precious time.

This fall we completed a newly redesigned, mobile-friendly website for Catholic Charities North Dakota because that is where people spend much of their time now. Note that the internet and smartphones are not inherently bad for us. They can be used effectively for our benefit to find good information or to our detriment if we’re not careful. Even if these are harmless pastimes or escapes, do they steal our precious time away from us?

Is there something holding you back or robbing you of the time that could be spent better with family, friends, or serving others? While we can never recapture moments already robbed from us, we can make small changes here and there that can make a difference.

We can do better than 5 hours a day entertaining ourselves and 5 minutes on our faith and those in need. There is no better time to begin than the New Year. Ask your parish staff and local nonprofits how you can get involved. Why not start today?

Chad Prososki is the Director of Development and Community Relations for Catholic Charities North Dakota. For more than 90 years, Catholic Charities North Dakota and its supporters have been putting their faith in action helping people, changing lives. You can reach Chad at info@catholiccharitiesnd.org or (701) 235-4457.