Time Well Spent

I was hurrying to my car early yesterday when I heard someone call, “Good morning!”  Looking around, I saw that my neighbors, whom I know only slightly, were in their back yard with their toddler son.  As I waved back at them, they scooped up their son and brought him over to the fence for me to see.  “He’s going to be one-year old this coming Tuesday,” they told me proudly.  I admit that I hesitated for a few seconds, because I was running late for church, and didn’t really have time to stop and talk.  But then I did the right thing and went over to meet them at the backyard fence to admire their son and chat a bit.   I ended up being even later for church than I usually am, but it was more than worth not hurting the feelings of the very nice young parents who live behind us.

We rarely have enough people on our walking shifts at the local animal shelter where I volunteer,  which means we are usually working as fast as we can to make sure all the dogs get out for their daily walk.  Often, people visiting the shelter will approach us with their questions, and our usual response is to direct them to the staff at the front desk, who are happy to help them.  But every once in a while, we are approached by someone who wants to tell us about a beloved pet that has recently passed away, because it’s not uncommon for people to look for a new pet while they are still grieving for their old one.  And when that happens, we pause for a little while to hear their stories.  Grieving people need the chance to express their sorrow, and that can only happen if we take the time to listen.

Of course there are times when we truly are too busy to pause, even for a couple of minutes, just because someone wants our attention.  But I also believe that there are many times when we just hurry on our way, believing that we don’t have the time to deal with someone else’s problems, or can’t possibly spare a moment on someone who isn’t an integral part of our day-to-day life.  And that’s a shame, because that means we’ve lost an opportunity to form a real connection to another human being, especially at a time when the other person desperately needs that connection.

IMG_1767Most of us do live busy lives and keep hectic schedules, and aren’t always able to “stop and smell the roses” as the old saying goes.  That means time is a precious commodity, and like all precious commodities, it should be spent wisely.  But there is a difference between spending our time wisely and hoarding our time with little or no regard for the needs of others.  And when we are able to be generous with our time, and use it to truly help someone else, then that is always time well spent.

51 thoughts on “Time Well Spent

  1. Ann, a good thoughtful article which hopefully will make at least some of your readers think! I in particular relate to the chapter about “grieving”. And yes, you are right, we are all busy with one thing or another, but 5 minutes of our time might make a hell of a difference to a person who is in need of another person just listening.

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    • Thank you! And yes, I think sometimes we get into such a “busy” mode that we forget how to take just a few minutes for those who really need us. It’s not as hard to find the time as we like to think. Thanks for the comment!

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  2. Thank you for the important reminder, Ann. Hubby asked me today if I wanted to make a little visit to his 93-year old Aunt who he is POA and primary caregiver for and is so good at visiting and helping several times a week at the assisted living where she lives. I said, “no – not really,” but I knew I was going to go. Kinda the last thing I wanted to do on my last day of vacation when it was so beautiful out, but I knew it was the right thing to do, and I did. And I felt so much better afterwards. We spent only about an hour there. I helped her find her watch that she had lost (on top of her dresser) 🙂 . We tried some sheets on her bed that didn’t fit, so got rid of them and I promised to get her a new set. Took care of some other stuff and just visited. She said she was “so happy” we came to visit. It was worth it. You were good to take the time to visit, and I admire every time I think of you walking all of those precious dogs. You are a good human being Ann! Don’t you EVER EVER doubt it! ❤

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    • Thank you, Jodi! I hope you know how much it means to me when you write that, because I really value your opinion. And you are a WONDERFUL person yourself. I’m not surprised you spent the last day of your precious vacation visiting your husband’s aunt. You know how much she appreciated that, and that is the sort of person you are: a wise and wonderful giver! I am so glad that our paths have crossed, and that I can benefit from your wisdom, your creativity, and most of all, your goodness…..

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      • You are so so so kind, and give me way too much credit. I really did say “No” first – and meant it – LOL! I am not always “wonderful!” Believe me! But I keep trying 🙂 It is a joy to have our paths cross ❤

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  3. This post reminds me of my dear friend and former boss. No matter how busy our college admissions office was, she always stopped to take time to look each of us in the eye, say hello, and ask how we were. She taught me that people are more important than anything. I try to emulate her in my own interactions with others, but as you point out, it’s hard in a busy world.

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    • I’ve known people like that, too, and I admire them very much and try hard to follow their example. I often fall short, but I keep reminding myself that I need to remember what is important in life, and that I need to be accountable for how I spend my time. Someday, I hope I’ll get there. Have a terrific week, Kim!!!

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  4. I just talked about this at church a couple of weeks ago. We talked about how in his ministry, Jesus was sometimes “interrupted” by people (e.g. the woman who touched the hem of his garment), and instead of being annoyed, Jesus realized the interruptions as opportunities for ministry. This is something that I struggle with. Your post was a nice reminder.

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    • Thank you! I also struggle with remembering that interruptions are often opportunities for connection and helping others, so this post is a reminder to me as much as everyone else. And you’re right, Jesus did set an example for the rest of us. Thanks for the comment!

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  5. Great to meet you.. I love this post and it is so true – what is life if we don’t have time to ‘stop and smell the roses’ and you are right – time spent helping someone for a moment in time can make a massive difference.. Thanks for this perfect reminder! x

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  6. Kim makes a very good point about looking others’ in the eye as we contact them. A few times I’ve noticed myself having those trite exchanges with the person on the checkout at the supermarket, yet without once looking them in the eye. There’s no excuse for that, so I changed my ways, and even though I can frankly do without the engagement at that point, and that they’re trained to do it rather than doing so volitionally, then looking them in the eye a few times tells them you acknowledge them as equals and as individuals. Who knows what’s going on in their inner world? And who knows what small but welcomed difference such acknowledgement may make during a day of being more-or-less disregarded by 90% of people encountered?

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    • You are exactly right! A simple acknowledgement of the person at the check out counter, or the person who refills our water glasses at the restaurant, delivers our mail, etc., can make all the difference to that person. And sometimes, the exchange goes beyond that. I’ve actually gotten to know a little bit about some of the people who work the check out registers at the grocery store I frequent, and that has enriched MY life. Sometimes their stories are inspiring to me (like the woman who cares for her invalid mother as well as her grandson), and other times, it’s their acknowledgement of me that lifts my spirits when I’m having a bad day. Thanks for the comment, yours are always insightful!

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  7. I can surely relate to always being in a hurry, late or a big rush. It’s almost like playing races with the clock, but it’s true we do need to sit back and enjoy the present. Time is so precious and I’ve noticed when we pause for minutes..that’s when we live the most. For me, that’s when all the little things come to life and I appreciate everything even more.

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  8. We should always try to be nice to other people, Ann, and that includes being willing to listen to them when they want to talk–even if that means talk about their English homework, at 11.30p.m. last night, just when I was about to brush my teeth and go to bed.

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  9. So very well said Ann. As I’ve got older I think I’ve slowed down and take more time to reach out to other people. I know that I appreciate it when someone approaches me and takes the time to make conversation so I try and do the same when I can. Yes, we’re all busy but I think if stopping to chat even for a minute can brighten someone’s day then it’s so worth being a bit late. Lovely post.

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  10. Time is such a precious commodity. We think we do the best we can with the time we’re given during the course of a day but we sometimes wander. Our priorities and intentions are good but we live in a world that is based on what we’ve accomplished or how we’ve performed, not who we’ve touched or connected with. Taking the time, as you have, to simply speak with a neighbor or someone who asks a question, has somehow become lost in our hectic world. I love asking questions when I meet someone. It can be as simple as waiting in line for something. Most people really do enjoy conversation, they just don’t think they have the time. But what a gift when they realize how special a little interaction with another human being might be.
    Thank you for bringing this topic the attention it deserves.

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    • You are so right…we judge ourselves, and others, by what we accomplish, and not by our connections with others, which is so much more important. Good for you to strike up conversations with people, especially by asking them questions! Most people really appreciate the chance to talk about themselves, even a little bit, and to have someone else express an interest in them and their opinions. Such a seemingly small gesture, and yet it means the world to the other person!

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      • There is a song by John Prine called Hello In There. It’s about losing relevance as one grows older and the need to be someone to just say “hello” once in a while. You can Google the lyrics or better yet Google a version of Bette Midler singing the song – very powerful. Take care!

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        • I’m sorry, for some reason I just saw this comment. But I will google the song, because I would love to hear it. I think the saddest part about growing older is feeling less relevant to others, and to society in general, and we need to be reminded to pay attention to our seniors. They have a lot to give!

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    • Exactly! I think if we really studied how we are spending our time, we would realize how much of it we are wasting. I spent so many hours shuttling our kids to various sports games when they were young, and neither of them became serious athletes. I don’t even remember most of their games. But I do remember out family trips, our family dinners and the quiet conversations we had at home.

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