Imagine someone came to you and said, “I have a gift for you. I am giving you a special account. Every day, I will give you $1,440 to spend. No more, and no less. But you cannot save those dollars. At the end of each day, I will take whatever you didn’t spend. And I will take this account away from you, whenever I deem best.” Wouldn’t you spend that money in the wisest way you knew how?
Every single one of us has this account. Our Heavenly Father has given it to us, but the account is not full of money, measured in dollars. The account is full of the gift of time, measured in minutes. Are we spending our time in the wisest way we know how?
St. Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church, made a vow to never waste a moment of time. Over a span of approximately thirty-five years, he published about sixty volumes. Even though he had so many responsibilities as a bishop, missionary, religious superior, and confessor, he snatched bits of time between his duties to turn to his writing.
But, one may protest, “He didn’t have to work for a living! He didn’t have to care for a large, busy homeschooling family! He didn’t care for an aging parent! He didn’t have to volunteer in his community! We work so hard! We are allowed to rest!”
Yes, not only are we allowed to rest — we are commanded to rest by Our Heavenly Father in the Third Commandment, “Remember thou keep holy the Sabbath day.” He Himself rested on the seventh day, after He completed the great work of creation. But there is a wide gulf between deliberately setting aside time for rest and wasting time. And it is far too easy to have the former morph into the latter. Planning and then enjoying a family movie night is a far cry from sitting down to check the weather forecast, and then realizing that one just spent the last forty-five minutes clicking through the “strange but true” stories on the weather website sidebar. The difference is consciously planning our rest time to recover from and then recharge for work, versus letting our minutes drip away on the endless, mindless distractions that are always fiercely competing for our attention. Do those distractions deserve the minutes that we can never recoup?
Many years ago, I was blessed to have a wonderful priest who heard my confessions. He had a gift in assigning penances. In addition to a few prayers, he often included specific practices to help me work on my faults. After accusing myself of the sin of wasting time, he gave me the penance of reading Time Management from the Inside Out (Second Edition), by Julie Morgenstern. It was a life-changer for myself and therefore for my family.
I have always enjoyed this reminder of the value of time that I first came across as a child. Perhaps you may like it as well:
- To realize the value of ONE YEAR, ask a student who failed a grade.
- To realize the value of ONE MONTH, ask a mother who gave birth to a premature baby.
- To realize the value of ONE WEEK, ask the editor of a weekly newspaper.
- To realize the value of ONE HOUR, ask the friends who are waiting to meet.
- To realize the value of ONE MINUTE, ask a person who missed the train.
- To realize the value of ONE SECOND, ask a person who just avoided an accident.
- To realize the value of ONE MILLISECOND, ask the person who won a silver medal in the Olympics.