Time Will Tell

Santa Clarita Signal • Ethically Speaking Column • For July 25th weekender, 2015


Time Will Tell

David W. Hegg


As I approach the golden age of 60, I am finding more and more pleasure in a few simple things. Among them are a quiet early morning, a great cup of coffee, and the news of the day. Taken together, these simple things make for thirty minutes of settled satisfaction. Recently, I read an article detailing one man's boast he could determine the character and personal preferences of someone based on the foods they preferred. I found it an interesting but ultimately unconvincing idea. But, it did get me thinking. And while our menu preferences may not be a good witness to our character, I'd like to suggest that the way we view time actually is.


My life is made up of meetings and appointments. Several times a day I find myself obligated to meet an expectation regarding time. And I propose that there are two kinds of people in this world: those who believe they are so important that people will - indeed should -- wait for them; and those who consider others so important that they make sure no one will ever have to wait for them.


I know what you're thinking. You're wondering if I'm making a mountain out of a few minutes. Probably. But think about this: Time, unlike money, or food, or any other commodity, can never be increased. You can never make more of it. You can’t run to the store and buy more. You can’t stretch it, save it up or pause it while you do something else. There are no synthetic substitutes for it, and we learn early in life that we can’t actually manage it. All we can do is manage ourselves in relation to this unstoppable, omnipotent pulse called time.


I often mutter “sure wish I had more time” even as I know there is no such thing. In fact, each of us has, everyday, all the time there is. While we wish for more time what we’re really doing is wishing we were more efficient with the time we have, because we know intuitively that’s all the time there is!


We may be able to increase our monetary flow, or our stockpile of food, or any of our other possessions. We may even grow in our love, our knowledge, and our strength. But no one will ever be able to add even 1 second to the length of an hour. This makes time the most valuable commodity in the world.


That’s what so infuriating about time wasters. Maybe it is the knowledge that tomorrow will come with another package of 24 hours that keeps us from seeing the great value of every minute today brings. After all, no matter how we spend today, there’s another full day coming, or so we hope.


As I see it, many people need to understand just how valuable time is, especially those who think nothing of spending my time as though it were theirs.


Imagine if I let other people spend my money at will. If I let others spend $5 of my money here, and $10 dollars there, as they wanted, wouldn't people think me a fool? So, why is it okay if they spend my time? If the meeting is supposed to begin at 2:00 pm, why is it allowed in our culture for some to come a few minutes late, and not be consider to have robbed each of us who arrived on time? You know who you are, and next time you show up late come in ready to compensate the rest of us rather than gifting us that silly smile and lame excuse.


Here's what I think: While you probably cannot determine a person's character by the dessert they choose, you can get a good fix on how considerate they are of others by the way they view time, especially the time others spend waiting on them.


People who think nothing of coming in late will have a hard time convincing anyone they are considerate, respectful, and disciplined. In a world where being a servant is less and less prized, where the sense of entitlement is becoming progressively predominant, where personal convenience increasingly trumps courtesy, where "my" time matters, and "yours" doesn't as much, how do you measure up as a person of character, integrity, and worth? Perhaps time will tell.