Thursday, September 07, 2006

Deferred Gratification

I've been thinking this week about deferred gratification. The idea and practice of waiting, or putting off, activities and outcomes that bring about happiness/satisfaction seems to be out of vogue in some corners of society today. More and more, though, I have come to appreciate its importance in a life well lived.

The reason deferred gratification is on my mind is because, just the other day, I resubmitted a revised version of an article to a journal that is considering publishing it. Here's how it has gone so far. About two years ago, I started doing the research for an article on the role of information technology in public commenting on federal agency regulations. (Boring stuff, I know...but if you happen to be interested, I can tell you more.) I presented an initial version of the findings in Chicago in the spring of 2005. (Surprisingly, IT doesn't make a difference, at least not in the context I am looking at.) Then I spoke about a more developed version at a meeting put on by the House Judiciary Committee (in the very room where Clinton was impeached). I revised the paper yet some more, then sent it out to a journal for possible publication. A couple of months later, the journal got back to me--love the piece, but you have to make some changes first. A couple of more months, and it is off my desk once again.

Here's my point. By the time this thing appears in print, it will have been several years since I first came up with the key finding. I will have forgotten many of the details! Obviously, I must really enjoy the process, because the celebration is still a ways off. Gratification deferred.

This kind of patience, for some reason (thanks be to God!), has been fairly easy for me to come by, not just at work but in my personal life as well. Desi and I dated for 8 years before getting married. (And we knew each other for 4 years before that!) Together, we have waited for a lot of things, both big and small (on the small end, we dreamed about going cross-country for more than a decade). Things that we really wanted to experience and have right now! Inevitably, the wait has been worth spades! Now we look back and recognize that the sacrifices and deferrals have been worth it. But how do you convince the next generation of this, especially in America today?

For me, it is a constant balancing act. Enjoy the moment, yet act with the future in mind. The key, to come back to something I said a minute ago, is to love and cherish the process. Outcomes are great, no doubt. But we live the bulk of our lives in the process. Live these processes well. This is easier to do, I'm sure of it, when we live these processes not just for ourselves, but for others. Our family, our friends, our community, our world...our God...the One who made the greatest sacrifice of all.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


Have you ever traveled to a new place and felt "at home" right away? Over the years, we have had a few of these places (most notably, I would say, Sea Pines and Harbour Town). Oddly enough, given that we tend to be beach people, one fairly recent addition to the list is Hancock, Maryland.

Hancock is a little town in the western part of the state (right in the "thin neck" where Pennsylvania and West Virginia practically touch one another). Initially, the main attraction for us was the Western Maryland Rail Trail, a 20-plus mile bike path that has been built from the remnants of an old rail bed. Not only does the trail run through some really pretty hill country (while managing to remain low grade), it also runs parallel to the C&O Canal, one of our all-time favorite recreation spots (if you can call a nearly 200-mile long national park a "spot"). This past weekend, over the course of two rides, the four of us logged about 40 miles, some of it on the trail and some of it on the towpath.

Over time, Hancock has become for us about more than just biking. One of the best "down home" eateries anywhere--Weaver's--is located right on Main Street. Make sure you try the pan-fried pork tenderloins and the open-faced turkey sandwich! Plus, there are a bunch of nearby attractions that we really enjoy checking out when we're in the area:

Berkeley Springs, West Virginia (which is a cool, and kinda weird, spa and mineral spring town)

Cacapon State Park (where you can stay in a lodge or cabin and play a great "old school" Robert Trent Jones golf course)

Paw Paw Tunnel (a more than 3000-foot long wonder that brings the C&O Canal right through the Allegheny Mountains...walking through it is quite an experience...bring a lantern!)

Prime Outlets in Hagerstown (hey, even I need to buy clothes once in a while!)

Here's what it all boils down to...If we want a "classic" Balla weekend--a few days full of time together just the four of us (plus, it should go without saying, our towpath-loving pooches!), great biking, lots of awesome nature, and tasty food to boot--then one of our "go to" places is Hancock, Maryland. You should try it...but please don't tell too many of your friends!