Living and Loving in the Moment
This is the first in a short series of articles on the subject of time. Next up, "When the Moment is all We have Left".
We’re human, and I would venture to guess we all find ourselves taking time for granted. We work, we clean, we cook, we shop, we take care of families, and maybe, in the midst of our busy days, we sleep. We also tend to believe that there will be plenty of time for that phone call and/or visit, for a kind gesture, a happy smile, or simple word of praise.
Then something happens that snaps us quickly back to the reality that life is short. A neighbor loses his job, a parent falls ill, a friend dies without warning, or a diagnosis isn’t good for someone we love. Perhaps it’s more personal, a marriage falling apart, or a child turning away; or broader, a natural disaster, or mass incident of violence. Suddenly, those things that use to occupy our time seem pale in comparison, and guilt sets in. We begin asking ourselves those why questions. Why didn’t I know my friend was sick, or my neighbor was hurting? Why didn’t I check in, make that call, or drop in to say hello? Why did I withhold the one thing that is totally free, but so very important, my time?
I’m always impressed by those folks who find it so easy to share their hearts with those around them. Making time each day to be in the moment with the people we care about seems like an unattainable goal at times. But can we afford not to? What are the pros and cons of staying on schedule? My work and shopping get done, dinner is on time, the house is spotless, and the laundry is clean, but, my mom’s lonely, my neighbor’s scared, or my friend is gone. Can we find a way to share an hour a day? Can we spend time each day making sure that the people we love and care about feel our love and support? Can we set aside our own life drama to share a moment of time with others? What difference might it make if I tell a friend I love them every time we talk, check in on my neighbor, make the call, manage the visit? “I love you”, are beautiful words, but actions speak so much louder.
If you’ve ever read the book “The Five Love Languages”, by Gary Chapman, you are probably familiar with the idea that we tend to share our love with others, in the same way we enjoy receiving love. I feel most loved when others make time for me, which is surely why the gift of time is so important. I love to receive the gift of someone’s time. I love long dinners around the table, and I have one set rule when sharing dinner at my house, guests do not clean up. We sit and chat for as long as we can, and when they head home the dishes get done. I love having friends drop by or call spur of the moment for a get together. It feels good when those around me really listen, then ask about an outcome from our past conversation. I enjoy the back and forth of friendly ribbing, sharing stories from the past, and laughing together. I love the gift of time!
As I thought and wrote about this subject, I started to make a list of some of the things I know I need to do better. The more obvious, call more often and visit more frequently. But what about some less obvious ways that I can share my time and heart with those around me? Here are some things that I came up with, perhaps you’d like to make your own.
Things that take little to no time at all:
Make eye contact and smile at people I pass on the street. Even if I don’t know them by name, they are still my neighbor. Open the door for strangers, still neighbors. A friend’s spouse out of town? Invite them to lunch or dinner while they are on their own. No loss of time here, I’m going to eat anyway.
Things that take a little thought and prep:
Send a hand written note of thanks or greeting. Send a weekly email of support or cheer. Send an uplifting text to someone you care about. Cook a meal for someone who is facing surgery, coming home from a long trip, dealing with the death of family or friend, and never return a borrowed container empty, fill it with a favorite candy or homemade treat.
I’ve seen the benefits of sharing your time with others up close, and I’ve unfortunately seen and experienced loneliness when time is withheld. The benefits for both the person sharing their time, and receiving that time are awesome, and can come with unexpected results. We had neighbors in Canada who were traveling with their young son to Disney World. I baked a dozen of my Peanut Butter cookies for the long trip and delivered them before they headed out to the airport. That year, a hurricane interrupted their visit and everything was closed up tight. They were stuck in their hotel with just those treats until the storm blew over. They were so thankful for those cookies, and I was so happy I’d taken a moment to share my heart.
Time is precious for us all, but in the big picture of life, all we have are moments that we can either choose to withhold, or choose to share. I think I’m going to share.