A Most Valuable Gift

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

112 responses to “A Most Valuable Gift

  1. thoughtful and timely .. pardon the pun. Thanks for the post .. and congrats on being Freshly Pressed 😉

  2. I’m so glad to see this: My son’s favorite expression is “Just a sec.”

    Oh. My. God. If I hear that one more time, I think I’m going to explode!

    You mean I’m not alone in my plight? 😉

    • To be honest I was still habitually responding with “In a minute” until about 10 years ago when friends broke me of the habit. Not only are you not alone, I am an offender.

  3. Wow – Leaving the car by the terminal? Now that’s pretty funny! Someone calling a 6:30 am meeting and being 1 hr late? No excuse! I tend to be pretty punctual. And when I’m not, it is a symptom of being fairly out of balance with work/life – it’s inconsiderate, counter productive, and bad for me in terms of how I’m “feeling” about being a great colleague.

    Great post – congrats on being Freshly Pressed! I had one a few weeks ago – it was a wild ride indeed!

  4. Thank you for your new found prompt-ness! As an uber early worm, I appreciate when someone else cares to show up on time!
    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed,

  5. Nice Post Bill,
    Keep Posting, i love to read post in similar style.
    Very seldom i see such a great post.

    Cheers 🙂

  6. That’s really funny. My family invites me an hour early to all important occassions.

    I do agree with your post, but I’ve had a hard time implementing it. I think what’s worked best for me, since I’m just bad at figuring out how long things will actually take, is to try to be about 30 minutes early. Somehow, I get there, just on time.

  7. I liked this. I love it when people are confident enough to arrive early …

  8. I am always the early one. I have spent minutes, no hours, waiting on others. I must say it is frustrating to say the least. Thanks for the post and reminding others that someone made time for them and they should respect that. 🙂


  9. You are right…I have to be better about being on time and paying more attention to it. But, well, I will try to do it in a couple of hours 🙂 No, really, you’re right. I used to be the same way before I realized that being late affects everyone.


    • I ran for 15 years; then one day I took off my running shoes and haven’t put them back on again. Do you think 10 years is a vacation or maybe I’m through running? I discovered you won’t have friends if you don’t act like a friend and that means not making people wait.

  10. What a well written post! I really enjoyed it and its quite refreshing to read a post that is genuinely about appreciating life. So often, people are consumed with the latest news, gossip or self-promotion, but your post is just asking me people to stop and think for a minute. 4 Stars 🙂

  11. my best friend ruined halloween 1989, because we all waited for him (as good friends do) and he showed up two hours late giving us 30 minutes to get candy. i appreciate promptness.

  12. The final paragraphs of this post remind me of the song Seasons of Love from Rent (of course lots of things remind me to this show because I just auditioned for it).

    “Five-hundred-twenty-five-thousand-six-hundred minutes
    How do you measure, measure a year?
    In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights in cups of coffee
    in inches, in miles, in laughter in strife
    in five-hundred-twenty-five-thousand-six-hundred minutes
    how do you measure a year in the life?
    How about love?”

    There’s more…but that’s what popped to mind.


    • I thought of several songs when writing this post: Rolling Stone’s, Time Is On My Side; the Tams, Be Young, Be Foolish, But Be Happy and Hoagy Carmichael’s Stardust. I didn’t—but wish I did—remember Seasons of Love.

  13. I have a close friend who’s perennially late. We do the same thing you described in order to maintain peace with her: we give her a “start time” that’s a good 30 minutes prior to the REAL start time and we still expect her to be late. When she volunteers a time that she’ll arrive, we always assume she’ll actually show up 45 minutes beyond that. It’s almost as though she’s in a different time zone.

    I guess, in some ways, she sees no problem with this and our accommodating it certainly gives creedence to that. Maybe one day an epiphany will come her way.

  14. So true, so true. Good post and congrats on being pressed.

  15. I’ve never understood late people. I’ve always had the exact opposite problem – I’m pathologically early. It’s generally not a problem for other people, since I can always take another spin (or 10) around the block before knocking on the door, but it a dreadful waste of my own time!

  16. As a Christian, reading this article reminds me even more that our word is our bond and what and how we do things reflects on us. If you are consistently late and yet call yourself a Christian while making continual excuses and not having valid reasons for being occasionally late, perhaps it’s time to seriously assess how you walk your talk.

    Good article.

    • Love means it is about others not yourself. When you are self absorbed—even if for the “right” reasons—you are neglecting the love Christ asks us to share.

      Thank you for the kind words

  17. My family is the same!!! And my man always say “no” but actually means “not RIGHT now”. In SA, time is a very hot topic….. African time would never get you to a meeting for 6.30. That would be crazy.

    Congrats on being freshly pressed.


  18. I’m glad you realized the err of your ways of tardiness! I had a friend who I loved dearly, but after putting up with her lateness for years, it wears your friendship down. You do feel the disregard for YOUR feelings and your worth by them, whether they realize it or not. Maybe the way you were taught is the way other guilty parties need to see how it feels because repetitive apologies get “old”!


  19. I’ve decided that time is just a number and something that humans developed in order to keep up with life. That doesn’t mean I don’t respect time…it just means I don’t wear a watch or look at a clock unless I’m expected somewhere or I have a start/stop date. Good post. I enjoyed your ah-ha moment.

    • If you could ask him, Albert Einstein would reply that time is more than just a number. It’s not keeping track of time that’s important: it’s realizing that the limited amount of time you have is valuable.

    • Hi Bill,
      Even though I admire Einstein for his brilliance I don’t agree that time is more than just a number. For me, 10:17 are just numbers. I realize that in society we do use numbers to measure whether we’re late or on time. And if I have to be somewhere I’m careful to show up on time or maybe a little early so as to not make others wait. My thought though is that what’s valuable for me is not the limited amount of time and how little I may have of it that is of value to me…rather, it’s the experience of life I have no matter how much time is involved.
      Don’t misunderstand me, I related to your experience and your amazing life lesson. I believe we’re on the same page, maybe using different words and phrases to describe our thoughts.

      • The time you were born; the time the alarm clock is set to go off or the time to bake a cake: are all just numbers. But time itself is amorphous: a structureless, nebulous entity that each of us controls. You are correct we are on the same page.

        That’s getting too deep for a Friday afternoon.

  20. I stumbled across this post on ‘Freshly Pressed’. I was probably meant to see it due to my inherent quality to be late everywhere. My New Years resolution is to be on time. My yoga teacher said ‘better to have one resolution every year that you do accomplish than thirty-five you can’t keep up with’. So, realistically, I am going to have to say my resolution is to be on time, 60% of the time. Not sure how I will measure my success, but it is an unimaginable feat that I am determined to battle.

    Time is such a weird thing to think about, because it only means as much as the weight we give it. I liked how you said how we measure times and moments in our lives, and the lives of others (like the World Trade Center)- when all it really is a significant number, marking the increments of our days, weeks and years. Time is so weird to think about because it’s constantly being published, you can’t stop it or see it. All obvious things, but I like that you referenced them in this post.

  21. Thank you for writing about this. And so well! Late = rude in my book. If I’m not early, my friends know I’m dead. Again, good post!

  22. Time is a precious thing! Very good article on the value of time and of other people. Thank you for sharing.

  23. This is a great piece! As a person that occasionally battles with the late bug this is certainly something that I’ll look to implement in life. Thanks for sharing!


  24. I am late for everything. And I mean everything. My family also tells me that something is starting thirty minutes before it does and still expects me to be late. I have had so many people ask what the deal was and often times would get really aggravated. It was mostly because of them calling me out on something that I already knew, that it was disrespectful to waste other people’s time. These days, I do much better. I’m not perfect and fall behind at times but when that happens, I try and think that if being late is the worst thing I do then it’s not that bad.

    On the flipside of things, if I ever show up on time consistently for the next several family functions, several family members may pass out. Hmm…what’s a girl to do, risk their health? I really appreciated your post. Thank you for sharing.

  25. I totally agree with both you and Maya Angelou – time is truly a wonderful gift that should not be squandered!

  26. Time really is a gift. My problem with time lately is that I want to squeeze more out of it than what I should. There must be down time and sleep time. It seems, to me anyway, if I’m not “doing” something, I’m wasting time.

    Not so.

    The most valuable time spent can be just resting. Otherwise, what time we have left to focus on the “doing” may be spent on regretting having left so little time for oneself.

    Congrats on being FRESHLY PRESSED. I enjoyed your blog.

    • Each persons decides what he or she wants to do with their time. Resting can be as valuable as working: it’s when we don’t realize the value of time that we waste it.

      Thank you for your kind comments and congratulations. Being “Freshly Pressed” is a wild ride.


  27. Pingback: A Most Valuable Gift (via Lessons Learned From Experience) « The Phantom Of the Opera

  28. I think people look at time differently, and this determines whether we value it more, less or the same as others. Your brothers smart-aleck mouth reminds me of my younger sister (and my son, lately). Sounds like what you’re saying about realizing the importance of wasting other people’s time is that you “grew up” a little. 🙂 And I’m not one to talk because I’m habitually running late. That could just be poor planning on my part, though, and not disrespect of others. I try not to make others wait on me most of the time.
    After reading this, I just can’t get that Boy George song “Time” out of my head. “Time won’t give me time…”

  29. hahahahaaa!!! My husband was late to our wedding, not to mention everything else! I watched his father pace the parking lot of the church, shaking his head with each turn. I can look back on this and laugh, as I have many times, because he is no longer my husband!!!

  30. My older son is 15. His latest favourite reply to me asking him a favour is:
    “Sounds interesting.” … hm…

  31. A friend told me once, “Being late with no emergency is just a way of telling the other person you are more important.” I took that to heart, and try to value them.

  32. congratulations this page is very very good

  33. I can very much relate to this, not so much in terms of being late all the time, but feeling like I never have enough time to do what I want. I guess one of the best things you can do to help value time is to be more effective. http://the7habits.wordpress.com/

  34. What a great post and very well written!

  35. When you retire, time becomes unimportant. Especially if you record your TV shows, then you can watch them whenever you want. Times drags by slowly sometimes.

  36. Nice piece. A lof of lesssons can be learnt from our daily life. I enjoyed reading it. Hi from Jakarta

    Hmm… I need to make more post in English 😉

  37. Touche. As someone who has been late on an occasion or ten in the past week, these words cut close, I feel a New Year’s resolution coming on.
    Time is perhaps the most valuable commodity on this earth, yet remains an enigma to me – the way it can either fly by, or crawl, depending on circumstances.

  38. I appreciate your honesty and self awareness –seeing a flaw in yourself by observing another.
    Also, the “late worm misses the early bird” will stick with me.

  39. I had a friend — no longer — who was routinely late every time we met. The time she appeared 45 minutes late with barely an apology, as I was getting up to leave, she seemed annoyed. We are no longer friends and I hate people who abuse my time as if it had no value. It has great value to me. I am angry with myself when I am late meeting someone else as I think it terribly rude, without a true emergency, to keep another person waiting.

    If someone is chronically late, they need to set their clocks an hour ahead or figure out what the deal is. We who await them get really tired of lame excuses.

  40. Pingback: A Most Valuable Gift | Lessons Learned From Experience | Non-Judging

  41. Ah… time. Such a bizzare concept, and one that truly scares the hell out of me. I don’t get it, and I fruitlessly wish it would stop being so damm inexorable. Have you heard that song “Stop this Train” by John Mayer? Youtube it, he’s got a live performance that’s spectacular. It really epitomizes everything I feel about time in my life, my feelings about the beauty of my past. He’s a great artist.

    “Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.” -Douglas Adams

  42. The best gift you can give to your loved ones is the gift of time. 🙂 Nice post!

  43. I really enjoyed reading your post, especially because this use to be a big problem of mine. Now I put every effort in being on time wherever I’m supposed to be and not only do I feel more relaxed but it’s great not to have to fumble with excuses. Thanks for sharing!

  44. Being married to an early bird helped cure me of (most) of my tardiness. I’ve found that the majority of my late behavior had to do with the poor way I was trying to deal with/process traumas that had happened throughout my life. Once I started feeling like a whole person and allowing myself to be in a ‘grown-up’ marriage relationship I began respecting myself and others enough to care about details like time management. Habit is so hard to break and occasionally I still struggle to keep my old ways from showing up again. Thanks for the reminder.

  45. It’s interesting, reading this I must agree
    However also I do not
    For there is something
    Within time’s concept
    That is often forgot
    Time is an illusion
    So it is not ours to ‘give’
    To find clarity of this
    Is this the only
    Life we live?

  46. Pingback: A Most Valuable Gift (via Lessons Learned From Experience) « There and Back Again – Alaska

  47. Bill…I have the “privilege” of working more hours than most of my co-workers. When they express to me how lucky I am, I often respond that time is more valuable to me than hours/money on a paycheck. And I really do mean that.

    I truly enjoyed this post. And…I seem to have become more punctual with age. I guess we give greater respect to the things that mean most to us.

    • With age you really begin to appreciate time. There are wealthy people who would give all they own for time, loved ones, friends and good health. The most precious things cannot be purchased.

  48. Often tardiness is an ADHD symptom. You might want to get checked (there’s less stigma to it now, I promise).

  49. A good lesson on time. It is indeed valuable. So maybe that is why people say – ‘A stitch in time saves nine.’ One gets to know the value of time in the proverb itself

  50. A good lesson on time. It is indeed valuable. So maybe that is why people say – ‘A stitch in time saves nine.’ One gets to know the value of time in the proverb itself.

  51. A good post – the older I get, the more I realise that I have no right to waste other’s time by making them wait. But a 6:30 am meeting? Really?!!

  52. Wow! Such a nice post. It made me realize that time indeed is the most valuable gift. You have to be careful on how to spend and to whom you share it with. You can never bring back the time you wasted..

  53. My father pulled me out of bed on to the floor “thud” if I was not awake and on my way to getting ready and out the door, every morning, as a result I am annoyingly on time all the time as if I was hard wired with my own alarm clock. It made me crazy as a young adult to learn that everyone else was cronically late. Now in my fifties I have also learned that I can only take responsibilty for my own time. When I am waiting for some one I try to think of the “wasted time” as an opportunity to just rest, feel my presence, and enjoy the calm. Often I get an apology when it is seen that I am not going to react with hostility. Whatever the reason for tardiness, each of us has our own time to care for. Nice post.

  54. The early part of your post made me chuckle because, although I am often a few minutes late, my brother is notorious for being late, and we had an aunt and uncle who could always be counted on to be exactly an hour late — except the year they forgot to change their clocks and startled us by arriving exactly on time — apologizing for being late — to find my mother and me still in our slips making canapes. You made a nice segue to the point at the end.

  55. This is ‘my’ big problem, because ‘in a minute’ or ‘wait’ is exactly what I have to hear from my husband. It is me who have to wait till he finishes whatever he is doing or not. ‘In a minute’ is not to bad, but now it starts to be ‘tomorrow’ . Waist of time indeed. I enjoyed your writing and will be back.
    Thanks for sharing.

  56. My mother once told me that (1) interrupting people when they talk and (2) always being late or saying “in a minute” makes the recipient here one thing, and one thing only:

    “I think my time is better and more important than your time.”

    Yet every last one of us gets the same 24-hour ration every day. Hmmm.

    Congrats on FP. 🙂

  57. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed! I tend to be on time (for the most part), and I’m working with the boyfriend on improving his time. 😉

  58. I admire. No one can teach better then what the Damn experience, does….!

  59. Time is indeed precious. It’s the best way to spell “love” (accdg to Rick Waren on his masterpice ‘The Purpose-Driven Life’).


  60. Time is indeed precious. It’s the best way to spell “love” (according to Rick Warren, on his masterpiece ‘The Purpose-Driven Life’.)


  61. I completely emphatize! Although, my experiences tell me that doing things at the last moment have helped do more of them! Living at the last second helps me get stuff done 😛

  62. sukhumvit hotel

    I admire. No one can teach better then what the Damn experience, does….

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s