Springing Forward

hour-glassIt’s one of my favorite times of the day.  It’s nearly 2am.  The streets and surroundings are still.  Lights twinkle from the neighboring buildings.  There’s a slight chill in the air.

And there is silence.

So much hype surrounds me virtually as social media reminds me that a change in daylight-savings-time means that I am about to “spring forward” by one hour.

Pastors worry that their churches will populate at the wrong time—while brunch-goers and golfers are concerned about syncing up with their compatriots for a weekly ritual.

And the passage of time takes on a layered dimension as a cherished hour disappears.

But for me—having grown up on the Navajo Nation, and having spent most of my adult career in East Africa—I measure the passage of time in different ways.

When my parents would plan seminars—on the Navajo Nation—they scheduled them for “Dark-Thirty,” that is 30-minutes after dark.  They had learned that no matter what time they would otherwise choose, delegates would arrive half an hour after sunset.  My parents understood that schedules and priorities were based not upon a mechanical device, but upon an organic reality centuries old.

In Uganda (and in much of East Africa), time is marked by an entirely different numbering system than what people use in the “west.”  Hold on to your hats here.  In East Africa, what you call 7am, is referred to as one o’clock—because it is one hour after sunrise.  And what you call 12 o’clock noon is six o’clock.  Same with midnight.  It is 6 o’clock at night.  Six hours after sunset.

Time is rooted not in a marker in the middle of the day or night, but in the rising of the sun.

And in the setting of the same.

As you “spring forward” today, may the same be true for you.  May you calculate the hours—and minutes—of your life in the language of light, and in the organic measurement of what truly is.

3 Responses to Springing Forward

  1. suzy from Africa
    March 10, 2013 at 8:29 am

    Understanding the way African’s measure and deal with time has been a huge break through for me—and they way you describe it here puts into even greater prespective. THANK YOU AGAIN…for insightful thoughs and the gentle nudge to cherish “the moments” in my day.

  2. Lisa LaPlace
    March 10, 2013 at 8:49 am

    Nathaniel,
    As a nurse I have worked the NIght Shift for decades, I too love the quiet blanket of calm God provides in the wee hours of the day. Shhhh it is a secret for those that seek it.

  3. Tammy
    March 15, 2013 at 7:47 am

    I am up at 1:45am every morning.. it’s such a peaceful time for me. The sound of the ocean, the slight chill that sits in the air, coupled with a warm breeze that blows through every once in a while… What a BLESSING!! It’s like the Lord is saying “it’s me! Listen..I am here”…..It’s a time to reflect, a time to pray, a time to worship AND definately a time to listen… <3 <3
    Jesus' Blessings on you and those wonderful kids Nathaniel..

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Nathaniel is CEO of AidChild.org. He holds a Master's Degree in Human Development and Psychology from Harvard University where he was a Reynolds Fellow in Social Entrepreneurship, and winner of the 2010 Harvard HDP Marshal Award. He also holds a PhD in Leadership Studies from the University of San Diego where he was the Dammeyer Fellow in Global Education Leadership, and a Cordes Fellow at Opportunity Collaboration. Nathaniel is author of "We Are Not Mahogany: Three stories about the male African life." Prior to his move to Uganda in 2000, Nathaniel was Deputy Director of the Office of the Governor of Arizona, and Director of Education at Leadership, Inc.

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