Time seems to be our most precious resource these days. We all have the same 24 hours, but for most of us, it’s never enough. There’s rarely enough time to do everything we want to do. And using some of that precious time to extend kindness may not be a priority.
“We become what we love. Whatever you are giving your time and attention to, day after day, is the kind of person you will eventually become.” (Wayne Muller)
Last February on Forbes.com, contributor Tim Maurer wrote a thoughtful article entitled, “Time Is More Precious Than Money.” That’s right, Forbes, not High Times.
Maurer, a financial advisor, is part of a group of advisors that is deliberately asking new questions of themselves and their clients—questions that are intended to go beyond portfolios and financial investments to explore the values that make our lives richer in every sense, not just ka-ching. When he explores asset allocation with his clients, he wants to probe beyond securities and talk about how they allocate their time, their lives, and their love. Maurer states: “We have the choice to order our loves, to acknowledge the limited nature of time and our own capacity, and to prioritize our work and life.”
As we allocate our time, are we creating space for kindness? If it’s a priority, we will. But, it’s a choice we need to make consciously, otherwise it may be squeezed out by the myriad other things clamoring for our time and attention.
It takes time to be kind.
- It takes time to pause and think about what is the kind response.
- It takes time to step out of our routine and enter into a genuine conversation, or provide assistance when doing so might delay us from our appointed rounds.
- It takes time to be patient—to allow someone to fumble, stumble, and learn—without jumping in to fix, show them how to “do it right,” or do it for them.
- It takes time to reach into our pocket and find a dollar that might help someone make it through another day and then to look that person in the eye and say a kind word as we hand it to them.
- It takes time even to be kind to ourselves—to stop and think about whether what we need most is to slow down, take a walk, relax….
When I was working 60+ hours a week, and also trying to maintain some sort of a life outside of work, I think I often blew off opportunities to be kind. The few moments it would take to drop someone a note, or to go out of my way to pick up a small gift, or to invite a friend to lunch or bake a treat for a neighbor…all were just too much, like dumping a bathtub full of water into an already sinking rowboat.
I have friends and colleagues whose workloads were as crazy as mine who nonetheless often went out of their way to be kind. Their kindness, and their priorities put me to shame. What great examples they are. These are people who are just naturally kind and who would probably think it ridiculous to set an intention of kindness, or to spend time pondering the nature of kindness. To them, kindness is like breathing, it requires no thought.
Kindness isn’t something we do only when we have time for it. Kindness is how we choose to live. I’m reminded of Robert Corin Morris’ lovely quote:
“The way we live our life is our spiritual practice—no more, no less, nothing but, nothing else.”
Now that I’ve cut my workload by half, I’m trying to look for those opportunities I used to overlook, and I’m also seeing that fitting them into my previous life might have been just what I needed—for kindness is energizing. Isn’t it curious how many great lessons we learn through our rear-view mirrors?
It may not always be a good time to extend kindness, but it’s almost always the right time.
There are so many barriers to kindness. I suspect, though, that once I can make kindness a natural, first response, the barriers begin to crumble. Once I no longer have to tell myself to pause, to engage, to connect, kindness will become second-nature … at least that’s my hope. For now, time and I are still skirmishing. And I remind myself daily that taking time for kindness is what gives meaning to life.
“When I am constantly running there is no time for being. When there is no time for being there is no time for listening.” (Madeleine L’Engle)