When Everyone Shows Up, It’s Time

Below is Whisper #33 from my latest book, 48 WHISPERS, which is a collection of photographs and personal meditations created across a decade of travel to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and the surrounding northern plains. 

I once helped the Oglala Sioux Tribe build a home in a reservation community near the Nebraska border. Our company donated the building materials and then shipped them to Pine Ridge. I flew to meet the truck and to help unload it, knowing the freight company contractually allowed four hours to accomplish this task.

I arrived on-site at 8:00 a.m. ready to get to work, but no one showed up until 9:30 a.m., and it was after 10:00 a.m. before we started.

“Where is everyone?” I asked the first man on the scene. “You’re on Indian time,” he told me with a smile. “When everyone shows up, it’s time.”

I’ll never forget that moment, and its meaning has grown on me. In the business world that I am accustomed to, the clock rules the day. Everything is scheduled with a finite beginning and a certain end. I’m constantly checking my Outlook calendar to stay on task.

Pine Ridge moves at a different pace, one more connected to nature’s flow. A visit begins when you arrive and ends when you leave. Schedules are rare. Moments seize themselves and there is a certain calmness that comes with this. I have never been hurried at Pine Ridge, and it’s almost impossible to be late there. This provides the opportunity to be fully present, and that’s part of what brings me back for more.

We pride ourselves on keeping track of time when learning to forget about it may be more valuable.