4 minutes that changed the world

15. True ____ False ____  An inch is a large unit of measure.

The answer’s obvious, isn’t it?

This was an actual question on a Physical Science test during my freshman year in college — possibly a final exam, since I remember so well my agitated state of mind upon reading it. After all, it cost me what could have been a perfect score, and only my second “B” at the school (the first was in Volleyball, but that’s enough said about that).

The class seemed downright hokey to me after the more rigorous courses I’d had up to that point.  I didn’t like the instructor. He taught at a level of challenge designed to keep football players playing.

With such a positive mindset, the exam question of whether or not an inch was a large unit of measure set my brain to screaming, “COMPARED TO WHAT???!!!  MILES OR MICRONS???!!!”  Needless to say, with a fifty percent chance of getting that one right, I didn’t (I can’t remember which I chose, but probably checked “True”, just to make my point. Great choice).

It’s all about perspective

Time and distance are two quantities that can be measured accurately, but are experienced according to our perspective.  Does Christmas take a long time to get here each year? Depends on whether you’re paying the bills or riding the new tricycle.  How much farther is it to Grandma’s house? Could be one more tank of gas or three thousand license plates.

When it comes to time, some things come down to simply what we’re used to, and what we’ve conditioned ourselves (or have been conditioned by someone else, for any conspiracy theorists out there) to accept.

I’ve recently returned to some of my roots, wondering why I ever left. I’ve been enriched by the return, and raked myself over the coals for having bought into the lure away. I’m amazed at my staying so long that I really can’t remember when I first drifted from what was best to go for what was simply good. In what area was this Eureka! moment?

Oatmeal.  Oh, yeah.  It was the big one. I’d heard all the blather about the “original rolled oats” being healthier than the more trendy oatmeal varieties I always bought, but I had resisted buying the original until I’d visited a relative’s home where the original style was the only option. Forced to delve into this texture and taste or avoid eating oatmeal altogether, I gave in and tried it.  It was good. Really good. The texture was more hearty, and the taste more real. I was hooked.

Why should you care about my oatmeal?

Being a writer, I naturally was unable to withstand the urge to think more largely about the phenomenon of really good oatmeal. If it’s more heart-healthy and more digestion-healthy and just down-right better all around, why was it virtually abandoned by society to the degree that health professionals now have to counsel people to select it as opposed to what they’re used to?

Why aren’t we already eating that kind? Is it more expensive? My recent run to the grocery store revealed that it is approximately, if not exactly, the same price, at least where I shop. So what is the problem?

I’ve identified it. Are you ready?


Got it?


Look at the labels. It takes an incredible five whole minutes to prepare the old-fashioned, original kind of oatmeal. How can even health professionals expect people to put that kind of time into readying themselves and their families for the day? I don’t think mothers should be expected to abandon the daily routine that stabilizes their lives, which obviously turns on the ability to only spare ONE MINUTE for cooking oatmeal.

OK. I confess to hyperbole. But in reality, in my writer brain, there’s a connection. We are willing to abandon the good for the quick. Our increasingly attention-shortened society glosses over quality for convenience, without really thinking of what we’re choosing.

There are some things that don’t work as well when done in a hurry

Family relationships.  Listening takes time. Trying to really listen on a cell phone while driving is not only less than safe, it’s less than effective.  Build time into your life to sit down eyeball to eyeball with your mother, grandmother, teenager or child of any age. The pay-off is worth it.
Education.   Our Christian school opted for a print-based curriculum after using a couple of online varieties that seemed to offer a faster-paced way to get things done. Good old pencil, paper, reading, memorizing, and practicing have proven invaluable methods, encouraging the students to interact with human beings before they interact with technology (they get plenty of that both at school and elsewhere!). It takes time, but it works.
 A walk with God. No rushing that one.  A quick blessing over your food, if you take time for that, is no substitute for separating yourself from your to-do list to just seek God, preferably early in the day, with time spent in prayer and reading his word. Looking into the word of God to find the path he gave to begin to know him, and then to respond to what the word says, will be time well invested. Maintaining that walk with him is a beautiful thing, but it takes….time.

So, here’s your question.

____True ____ False: Four minutes can change your world.

The answer? Probably not so much by itself (unless you live a lot longer on real oatmeal). String a few sets together, and apply them to things that matter and you’re getting somewhere.

So what about you? What  time investments are paying off for you? Anywhere you’ve cut corners and found it cost you in the end?  I’d love to hear from you.

Once I Heard the Sweet Song, my debut novel presently in the self-editing phase,  is the story of a family a few decades ago, when all oatmeal was real and took five whole minutes to cook. Do you remember those days?


  1. Wandaphillips says:

    Well I wrote a long reply. Where it went I dont know. Keep up the good work sister. I enjoyed it.

    Sent from my personalized C Spire Wireless Samsung Galaxy S


    1. Susan J says:

      Thanks, sister!


  2. dee says:

    Great post, Susan.
    Taking time; that’s the one thing I am determined to sacrifice for the things that matter. I try to remember this as I’m sitting with my 9-year-old watching movies instead of looking at the clock wondering how much longer this thing is going to last. I know one day she will appreciate the time I took to do things like that with her.


    1. Susan J says:

      Thanks, Dee. The things that last a lifetime -or forever – deserve the priorities in our lives, right?


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