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Wishing your life away

To encourage the sensible use of time.

by Helen Swain

Suitable for Key Stage 3


To encourage the sensible use of time.

Preparation and materials

  • You might like to prepare the Latin inscriptions 'Carpe Diem' and 'Tempus Fugit' on a large sheet of paper or an OHP transparency.


  1. Introduce the assembly by asking the children what they did over the weekend.  If their answers are not very different you could make suggestions: went to the match, the pictures, perhaps to church, to a party, or maybe just stayed in and watched TV.
  2. Now ask about what they are looking forward to doing next weekend.  You should get the same kinds of response.
  3. Say that people often spend time discussing their plans for their days off, and in a way you can understand this sort of conversation about days off work and days off school.  School tends to take up a lot of time on weekdays.  There is the normal timetable, perhaps some sporting fixture after school and not much space for anything but homework between dinner and bedtime.
  4. But the weekend gives us all two clear days – so it's no wonder we talk about our leisure plans and look forward to Friday when we can begin to do what we want to do instead of whatever anyone else tells us to do.
  5. There's only one problem with looking forward to something special: it can encourage us almost to live our lives in the future. And the only thing wrong with that is it takes away our enjoyment of the present.
  6. Once a Christian man called Augustine prayed, ‘Lord, make me good, but not just yet.' He prayed like that because he was having such a good time and he didn't want the fun to stop. Of course, the present isn't always enjoyable. Sometimes you might think it's hardly bearable. So looking forward to a treat in the future – like a holiday or a very special film – can help us when we feel a bit depressed.
  7. But living in the future isn't really living at all. It's just making pictures in your imagination. The present – what a religious writer by the name of Paul Tillich called 'the eternal now' is all we've got. Our lives are a lot richer when we try to appreciate what's happening at this very moment in time.
  8. Our lives are made up of tiny moments and each one is important.  We can spend each moment doing the right thing or the wrong thing.
  9. If we squander our hours, ruin our days and throw away our weeks, our lives will be empty.  But if we see each hour as an opportunity, if we spend each day in growing and if we use each week to move ahead, our lives will be full.
  10. In the film Dead Poet's Society , Robin Williams plays a teacher called John Keating who tries to give his students an appreciation of how amazing life is, and yet how short it can be.  Mr Keating introduces his students to two ideas, usually expressed in Latin: tempus fugit   – 'time flies' andcarpe diem – 'seize the day'.
  11. Dead Poets Society reminds us to seize each day and to cherish them dearly, as we can never stop the endless flow of time.  In order to avoid missed chances or regrets in later life we must always try to make our lives amazing, and do it NOW!
  12. You might want to incorporate this story into your assembly to
    demonstrate the need for using time wisely:

    One day Satan was discussing with another devil how they could do more evil in the world.
    'One thing you will soon realize,' said Satan. 'Human beings are very good at doing terrible things – all they need is a little encouragement.'
    'Why don't we spread the word that there is no God then?' asked the other devil.
    'No, no, they would not believe that.'
    The second devil thought for a while then he came up with another idea. 'Why don't we spread the rumour that there is no hell then? That will give them plenty of opportunity for doing wrong without any need to worry about it.'
    Satan shook his head. 'Human beings not stupid, but your suggestions have given me a good idea. Go to earth and remind them that there is a God, then remind them that there is hell too. But then tell them not to worry as they have plenty of time before they need concern themselves about either. Then you'll see what trouble they can get into!'

    Bible reading
    Ecclesiastes 3.1–8

Time for reflection

Time for reflection

Let's think of those who look back and wish they had an extra day or more

– people who do not have enough time for what they are expected to do;
– people who have lost a sense of balance and proportion in their lives;
– people who feel that they have made a mess of everything and would like to
be able to start again.

We think, too, about those who might wish for less time:

– people who are worried about what might happen;
– people who are in despair;
– people who suffer hours of pain and illness;
– people who are in prison or are being tortured;
– people who wish to die.

Let us resolve to use the time we have wisely, and take advantage of the
opportunities we have.


Dear God,
teach us to use our time wisely.
Help us to fill each second.
Help us to take advantage of each minute.
Help us to make the most of each hour.
And above all, give us the wisdom to seize each day.


This is the day the Lord has made

Publication date: July 2013   (Vol.15 No.7)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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