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.
Most 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.