Taking extended time away from work is a luxury for many Americans – not to mention for many citizens of the world. As the oligarchs have taken over large parts of our economy, the 90% are pressured to work ungodly hours and take time off at their peril. One of the most telling – and incredibly sad – segments of Michael Moore’s “act of guerrilla humanity” called Where to Invade Next is his reporting about how other countries provide their workers so much more time off than U.S. companies AND realize more productivity. Imagine that.
All of this is to say that I feel very fortunate to work for an organization that has a sabbatical policy to encourage creative, restful, and restorative time off. Several of my colleagues have taken a sabbatical in recent years – some to travel, others to work for preservation groups in other countries, and still others to work on projects for their faith communities. In each case they came back with refreshed perspectives and energy for their work.
My last day in the office before heading off for the first three-quarters of a sabbatical at the American Academy in Rome was Friday. (I’ll take the last quarter in August.) After 40 years of work (I started my professional career immediately after graduation from college), I feel that I’m getting a bit of a gap year…even if it is only 8 weeks. And I know how precious this time is. My sister texted today to say my 90-year-old father was in the ER with shortness of breath. It turns out that it was not related to his heart, but it was just another reminder of the fragile nature of life.
Before heading off, my management team gathered earlier this week to review our plans for the time I’m away. Each team member arrived with a coffee cup which – when turned to face me – had my picture and the letters “WWDJBD?” plastered across the mug. “What Would DJB Do?” Oh my! They said that when they were faced with a tough decision, they would pick up their coffee cups and get – I don’t know – inspiration? We had a great laugh. As you can see, my assistant checked my pictures and they chose to go with the “relaxed DJB” – from a photo taken by Claire on a beach trip a few years ago. I wonder if they had as tough a choice as the postal service did when choosing between the “skinny Elvis” and the “fat Elvis” back in the day.
I am very grateful that Candice and I will have this opportunity together. Andrew will hold down the fort at home, yet both of the twins will find time to visit us while we’re away. I’ll post as many pictures as possible, and – hopefully – a few thoughtful reflections as well.
More to come…