Dr. Val Farmer
Rural Mental Health & Family Relationships

Time to Be Available

October 21, 2002

Bold. Courageous. Tough. Persistent. Energetic. Goal-driven. We do what has to be done. We confront obstacles head on. Time is valued. Effort sustained over time brings results.

It is the world of work.

These values are assuming greater importance in our competitive world. These are the bywords of success. "The power of applying attention, steady and undissipated, to a single object, is the sure mark of genius." - Chesterfield

By themselves, these values are not enough. The hard-driving work values need to be balanced by values that nourish and sustain the human spirit. Too many organizations fail to use the talent available to them. Too many marriages suffer from a lack of attention. Too many children grow up without enough parenting.

Values of the human spirit. Generous. Nurturing. Available. Accepting. Compassionate. These values put people ahead of things that have no life. Time is of no consequence. We become aware of the needs of others and meet them. It is the world of relationships.

There is time for love if our goals, self-importance and our self-imposed deadlines haven't overwhelmed us. Many people do not "listen" with their heart because they might have to take time to act upon what they might "hear."

The clock rules. Life is a race to the finish line. We run with a delusion. We believe there is not enough time when there really is. We shut down the soul to win the race.

With our expressions and behavior, we hang out a "Do Not Disturb" sign so others will not bother us. Then one day, we wake up to the fact we've been winning all right - but running in the wrong race.

Our race with the clock dehumanizes us. E.M. Forster noted, "The people I respect most behave as if they were immortal and as if society were eternal. Both assumptions must be accepted if we allow a few breathing holes for the human spirit."

Theologian Martin Marty makes a similar point. "...It takes a sense of eternity to make one realize that there is time, time to be available and to create."

If we believe that, then there is enough time for ourselves, our work and for others. We are not threatened when things don’t happen to go the way we think they should.

Interruptions are not "bad". Things don’t always have to go according to schedule. We can still accomplish our goals and still care about others. There is time. Plenty of it.

This doesn't need to be an either/or situation. The busiest and most accomplished people know how to concentrate on the present precisely because they are organized and in control. Neither do they neglect themselves. They allow time for personal growth and self-renewal.

These individuals protect their work time. They use wisdom in judging between the demands of their own priorities and the times when their schedule can and ought to be set aside. They avoid over scheduling themselves they are available to attend to others when needed.

Take the time to listen. People who make themselves available to others know how to listen. And they take the time to listen. They are genuinely interested in others - and it shows.

Their concern is more than words. They want to help others. They signal with their eyes, face and posture that they are approachable.

With a tilt of the head, a bent ear or a light in the eye, they say, "For this moment or for however long it may take, I am at your disposal. I am not afraid. In fact, I welcome whatever you may say."

I have met people like this. They are an inspiration. They aren't too busy or too caught up in themselves. Part of their attraction is that they do not discriminate. They are willing to be engaged and signal that willingness to everyone.

Others, from whom I expected better, didn't share what they could have. No matter what their accomplishments, I was repelled by them. I do not go where I am not wanted.

The best employers, supervisors, husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, and friends are willing to take time and give of themselves in both planned and unplanned ways.

They radiate their availability. Their window has a candle in it for the weary traveler. The door to their soul has a large welcome mat in front of it.

When you think about it, we can measure what we value in life by keeping track of that which we give our attention. Attention is the ultimate personal gift; one we don’t have to give. No one can order us to give attention to something. It is a choice.

If people are generous with their money and miserly with their time, have they given that which is most precious? Not yet. When people are generous with their time and attention, they are truly generous.

Forming a bond. Love and time form a bond. Sharing time is a another way of sharing self. "What we serve is what we learn to love, and what we learn to love takes our time, and what takes our time is what we love." - Marvin J. Ashton

There is enough time. There really is.