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The Missing Eleven Days: A Time Management Lesson from Colonial America - Compass Classroom Blog

The Missing Eleven Days: A Time Management Lesson from Colonial America


Once upon a time, Benjamin Franklin went to bed on September 2nd and did not wake up until September 14th. No, this was not another of his experiments, an attempt to see what the life of a bear in hibernation would be like. Rather, it was a change in time. Or at least a change in the way we humans mark our time.

In 1751, some one-hundred and sixty-nine years after the formal introduction in Europe, the Gregorian Calendar was adopted by England and her American colonies. The reason for England’s delay in adopting this new measurement of time was primarily due to the fact that the calendar’s namesake, Pope Gregory XIII, was the head of the Catholic Church, and England’s Queen Elizabeth I was a Protestant ruler. In the years following her rule, alternating powers of Catholic and Protestant suasion came to the throne of England with such irregularity that no one Catholic monarch ever had the chance to implement Pope Gregory’s calendar. But in 1751, sense prevailed, and King George II lead the switch from the old Julian Calendar to the Gregorian. While in the intervening years between Gregory’s papal decree in 1582 and George’s adaption of that system of time management, Britain and the colonies were an entire 11 days behind the rest of the world. The way England fixed that discrepancy was to take the days out of the month of September in the year 1752. And so it was that 11 days went missing from the lives of those souls living in that year.

It’s said that there was a bit of a fuss that September, particularly in England. Some accounts say that peasants were rioting and crying, “Return to us our 11 days”! But more reputable accounts say that the transition went relatively smoothly with little upheaval. In the American colonies, for instance, Benjamin Franklin was quite upbeat about the prospects of the new Gregorian Calendar and joked,

“It is pleasant for an old man to be able to go to bed on September 2, and not have to get up until September 14”.

In truth, it matters not if George Washington was born on February 11th or February 22nd. Yes, it may cause some confusion to realize that some historic dates leading up to America’s founding may appear differently in varying history books. But what Ben Franklin’s jovial quip does remind us is that ultimately we have no control over time. Time is precious and time belongs to God. We are simply the stewards of the time God has given us, and we are to use every second in His service and to His glory.

So as we pull out our fancy new planners, day timers, and time-management apps this new year, let’s remember the Lesson of 1752: There will be days that seem to have gone “missing”, when we feel we have not planned as thoroughly as we ought, when our brilliant lesson plans fall on the deaf ears of our children, when the tyranny of the urgent supersedes all good intensions. But God is Sovereign, and with every new day we are given a new opportunity to proclaim with the Psalmist,

“Teach us, O Lord, to number our days that we might gain a heart of wisdom.”

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