Posted on | March 20, 2013 | 9 Comments
When my Grandaddy was alive, he would tell me the story of how he ran a kitchen at a local restaurant. One day, one of his cooks showed up thirty minutes late because his car had broken down and the man had walked ten plus miles from his house to the restaurant. At the end of the story each time, I would cringe, wondering who my Grandfather was that he would proudly announce “And I told him to turn around and walk back home because late is late.” He was proud of sticking to his guns. When I’d question him for not being more understanding, he’d shrug and say “He should have left thirty minutes earlier and then he would have been on time.”
The older I get, the more precious time becomes to me: my time, your time, time in general. When I have an appointment, I am always early. When I’m meeting someone for lunch, I’m early. When I go anywhere, I always tack on an extra fifteen to twenty minutes for traffic, even if I’m only driving ten miles… because time is a precious thing.
Now that I’m a “professional” with appointments of my own, I’ve become increasingly aware that most people don’t feel the same way about time. My clients will show up thirty to forty-five minutes late for appointments with no apologies. Opposing counsels will roll in to depositions fifteen or twenty minutes after we’re supposed to start and even the judges are often late for court times. It seems that no one understands the basic principle that my grandfather instilled in me:
My time is the most valuable gift I can give you.
When you show up late to lunch or to a meeting, you’re signalling to me that your time is more important than mine. You’re not so subtly telling me that whatever it was that kept you in the office or on the phone in the parking lot is more important than the fifty thousand things I left unfinished on my own desk so that I could be prepared and ready for our meeting when it starts. When you disregard your appointment time with me, you tell me that I’m not important… that I’m not valuable to you… that your time means more than mine.
And let me tell you something… we’re all of us working with too limited time as it is.
As a girl, the story my grandfather would tell me rang with injustice… sometimes things happen, sometimes people are late. As a grown woman, I can appreciate what he was trying to teach me:
Above all else, value time and the time that others give to you. Value that someone is giving you a portion of their day, a portion of time they could spend on anyone else, in any way. We all have only 24 hours in each day; if I consent to meet with you for one hour of that time, that’s an hour I don’t get back. That’s an hour I can’t spend in any other way. That’s a piece of my life that I’m giving to you.
And you know what? My life is pretty important to me… I don’t just dole out pieces of it for fun.
So I’m teaching my child the lessons my Grandaddy taught me: if you’re on time, you’re late; if you’re late, don’t bother showing up at all. And I’m throwing in a third, so the compassionate girl of my youth is satisfied: If you’re going to be late, pick up the phone and give me the option of rescheduling. My time is just as important as yours, I promise.
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