It’s About Time
Making every second count on the longest day of the year.
Do me a favor, and take note of the time right now.
You can write it down if you want.
10:02am? 4:17pm? Don’t round up; be specific. This is important. Are you going to write it down? Ohhhhh you’re just going to remember it? Well, fine. At least look at it one more time then. Still the same? Burned into your memory? Okay.
For those of us in the northern hemisphere, today is the summer solstice. The highly anticipated “longest day of the year.”
It’s the moment when the sun reaches it’s northernmost position, seemingly stands still, and then reverses direction and starts moving south again. That’s actually where the name originates: “solstice” comes from the Latin sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still).
I say that like I clearly learned it in school, but I’m very much paraphrasing what I’ve read on the Internet (astronomers(?), please go easy on me in the comments).
This annual event means that in New York City, we’ll have a whopping 15 hours and 5 minutes of sunlight today. Our friends in London will have 16 hours and 38 minutes. Those sleepless stallions up in Fairbanks, Alaska will have 21 hours, 49 minutes.
It’s exciting! The possibilities feel endless!
“Today is the longest day of the year?! We should grill out or go relax in the park or find a restaurant with outdoor seating or go for a run… or, or, or!”
The reality is, there’s hardly any difference between the amount of sunshine you’ll see today and the amount you saw yesterday. Could be one second. Might be less.
But it doesn’t matter. We instantly start thinking ahead to next month when the day will be 27 minutes shorter. We imagine September when we’ll have lost three hours. Darkness-before-we-leave-the-office is coming! WINTER IS BASICALLY HERE ALREADY!
It’s the comparisons that put things into perspective.
And though it might only be one more second of sun today, the fact remains that this one second is worth celebrating.
Today, the seconds matter.
We talk about time a lot at charity: water because it’s so closely connected to the impact of our work.
Women and children who lack access to clean water spend hours each day walking to find and collect dirty water for their families. They trek miles to distant ponds and nearly-dry river beds and often wait in line to fill a single 5-liter Jerry Can with water that might make their family sick.
We’ve met little girls in Nepal who wake up at 3:30am to get in line at the spring and don’t return home until after 8:00am. We’ve met women in Ethiopia who walk to the river before sunrise and don’t get back until after lunch. We’ve met parents in Mali who sometimes sleep next to the open well so they can be first in line when the water has refilled the next morning.
When your life revolves around dirty water like this, you can’t take time for granted. There’s no time for rest. No time for games. No time to be a kid.
But having access to clean water changes all of that.
Families who no longer have to walk or wait in line to collect water can spend more time growing food, earning an income, and attending school. Those extra hours turn into new opportunities. Opportunities lead to stronger futures. Stronger futures lead to less poverty.
Once again, the comparisons put things into perspective. And once again, the seconds matter.
Do you still remember what time it was when you first started reading this? It was nearly 2 minutes ago.
About 117 seconds.
It’s fun to think about the seconds — to think that seconds matter. It’s fun that one extra second of sunlight brings us so much joy today. And it’s even more fun to know that we can share that joy with someone else.
That we can multiply it by thousands.
We can build a tap stand behind that little girl’s house in Nepal so she can simply walk outside and fill her glass, and 117 seconds will be all she needs.
We can give an extra 21,600 seconds each day to families in Ethiopia, and by next summer solstice, those 21,600 seconds will have added up to 2,190 hours. More than 91 days-worth of time.
The seconds matter.
But it’s how we choose to use those seconds that really matters most.
However you spend your longest day of the year — whether it’s outside in the sun, picnicking in the park, going for a jog, or bringing clean water and more time to someone in need — I hope it’s memorable.
And I hope you enjoy every second.