There’s an old Jim Croce song that goes, “If I could put time in a bottle, the first thing that I’d like to do is to save every day ‘till eternity passes away, just to spend them with you.” (Time In a Bottle, 1972) Great song! But time can’t be saved, borrowed, loaned, invested, or given away. Each of us has 24 hours every day and that’s all there is. No amount of time is different from any other time, there is no magic “quality time.” What you do in that time might be of greater or lesser quality, but the time itself is no different. There are those who just use their time by mindlessly going about their lives, intent on getting through the present day, and I think that there are those who waste time by letting it slip through their fingers without making any difference one way or another. To me, all these various examples miss the mark. I think we’ve been given time in order that we may spend it.
When we spend, we usually have something to show for it, like goods or services in exchange for money. I think of time like that. When I spend a couple of hours writing, I might have a blog post to show for it, a partial chapter of my current book, or a short story. If I spend four hours a day teaching music, I not only earn a paycheck, but, hopefully, I can show student progress toward musical understanding or a concert, too. If I spend time taking a walk, I gain appreciation of nature, awareness of changes (or not) in my neighborhood, and better circulation in my legs because they haven’t been sitting. If I spend an hour playing piano, I receive joy from the music. In each case, I have something to show for the time I spent.
I’ve found that the most profitable use of my time is to spend it with lavish abandon, not counting the cost or expecting a reward, and not toward any goal or with any motive in mind, on people. It feels strange to write this, because I’ve said for years that I’m a loner, that I don’t particularly like people. I’m more comfortable with ideas and tasks. But I’m changing my thinking. When I spend my time with people, neither on designated tasks nor with a particular purpose in mind, but just for the sake of living in their presence for whatever amount of time I choose, dramatic changes occur. I am rejuvenated, energized, happy, relaxed, and peaceful. I think the Jewish word shalom would apply here – I become whole again.
Why is this? Perhaps it’s because time is a gift, not a right, and therefore, if I try to hoard it, time loses its value. Or maybe it has to do with my trying to control time so that everything works out the way I had planned, leaving no room for creativity and other people. Really, I don’t know. But I do know that spending time is good for me, and seems to bring joy and happiness to others as well. If you decide to experiment with spending your time, I wish you all the joy and peace I’ve found, and hope others will receive a double blessing through your efforts.