I had a reputation for always being late. When my mother would ask me to do something my answer would be “In a minute.” I can recall her saying, “I’ll be on my deathbed, drawing my last breath, they’ll call you and you’ll answer ‘In a minute.” If a friend’s party was to begin at six, they would tell me five-thirty and expect me at six-fifteen.
My brother was worse than me when it came to being late. When scolded for his tardiness with the comment “The early bird gets the worm,” he responded, “The late worm misses the early bird.” We were quite a pair. To go somewhere together we had to plan on leaving hours before necessary because we knew we would both be late.
I have a friend whose business requires a great deal of travel. He was always rushing to the airport and boarding a flight just at the last minute. A few years ago, upon exiting a flight he responded to a page by picking up a phone in the terminal. After identifying himself, he was asked, “Do you own a 1998 blue Mercedes Benz?” When he responded that he did, the man on the other end of the phone inquired, “Do you have your car keys?” My friend checked his pockets and brief case and not finding the keys replied “No, why?” The man on the other end responded, “I didn’t think you had them, since your car is still running in front of the terminal.” Running late, he pulled up to the terminal and left the car running as he ran to his gate. Needless to say, he now allows plenty of time to catch a plane.
I had a boss who decided our weekly staff meetings should begin at six-thirty in the morning. I would awaken an hour before the meeting, rush to be there, only to sit and stew, as he would arrive an hour late. Week after week, I would listen to my colleagues grumble about the unfairness of having to wait. Agreeing with them that my time was as valuables as the boss’s, over time I reached the realization that I had been guilty of the same disregard of others. It was then that I resolved to no longer be perennially late.
We have many ways keeping up with time: wrist and pocket watches; alarm clocks; clocks on our computers; automated calendars and clocks on our cell phones. We measure time: the length of a ball game; the time it takes to bake a cake and how long to go from A to B. We record time: the hour and minute the plane struck the World Trade Center; the time of birth and the time of death. We talk about time: when it snowed in 1977; the year our team won the national championship and the last time we were all together. Perhaps we are obsessed with time because we don’t know how much of it we have left.
Since no one knows how much he or she has and more cannot be obtained, time is a person’s most valuable possession. When someone shares his or her time with you, it is a gift that should not be taken for granted. With friends and loved ones, that gratefulness is best demonstrated by giving time back: focusing, listening and sharing. While in business you demonstrate your appreciation of a customer’s time by returning value to him or her.
When you comprehend the value of time, you realize that it a gift to be treated with respect and received with gratitude. By being thankful for and respectful of others time, you will discover they will want to share more of it with you.
“Since time is the one immaterial object which we cannot influence — neither speed up nor slow down, add to nor diminish — it is an imponderably valuable gift.” – Maya Angelou