On Taking Time for Granted

“Time is of the essence/The crowd and player are the same age always/But the man in the crowd is older every season./Come on! Play ball!” So urges poet Rolfe Humphries in his great poem “Polo Grounds”. (New Yorker, August 22, 1942, p. 22)

We are all guilty of saying things like “I’ll get around to it” or “Maybe tomorrow” or, most especially “I have plenty of time.” And yet we all end up with regrets, perhaps because we waited too long and the moment is gone.

We are all guilty of taking time for granted, assuming that there will always be time to do certain things. This applies to some extent to the concept of a Bucket List — those activities we hope to do before we cross over. Most Bucket Lists, however, (including ones I’ve come up with), consists of dreams, things I’d love to do if I ever have the money. Most of our Bucket Lists, however, ignore the warning of the 90th Psalm: “Teach us to number our days so that we will grow in wisdom”.

I have noticed a few things about people who no longer take time for granted:

1. They show great appreciation for much that I take for granted. A pleasant smile. A glorious sunrise. The smell of bacon and coffee. A child’s laughter.

2. They tend not to put things off. If it occurs to them to call a loved one, they do it. If they think of an old friend with whom they’d like to reconnect, they reach out.

3. They don’t take themselves to seriously. We tend to get taken up with our own importance. People who grasp the wisdom referred to in Psalm 90 also note how often we are reminded that each of us is really not all that significant in the overall scheme of things. We are all swept away, says the Psalm, “..like dreams that disappear” or like grass that springs up in the morning but withers by nightfall.

4. They tend to be enthusiastic. A visit from an old friend. A World Series game on television. A concert. An adult child dropping by for dinner. These and other events are welcomed and relished.

This is not a call to be depressed by insignificance. Rather it is an invitation to treat time as a precious commodity, something to be savored and respected.

My mother longed to visit Ireland. But she had children to care for. Then they had to move. Then family needed care. Then my dad took sick. Then  it was too late. I’ve never forgotten this.

Nor have I forgotten the guidance of a friend who cautioned me, when I was contemplating visiting my dying mother, “Don’t wait too long.” That time, thankfully, I didn’t.

So I encourage you to make a list of that which you have put off, thinking there will be time. Embrace Humphries’ advice. Play ball!

Reflections: 1. What have you put off doing? Is it too late?

Further viewing/reading: The third act of my favorite play Our Town by Thornton Wilder has a wonderful reminder of not taking time for granted. I recommend reading the play but also like the video version starring Hal Holbrook.