Understanding the value of Time

What once the American scientist and statesman Benjamin Franklin (1796 – 1790) said is worth recalling time and time again. Addressing young business people Franklin said, “Remember, time is money.”

Let us take a concrete example to understand the value of even a fraction of a second. The Olympic Games were in progress from July 28 to August 12, 1984 in California, USA. India cherished the hope of winning first time an Olympic medal. For, the Track Queen, P T Usha was taking part in 400 meter race.The 400 meter race was going to take place on August 9 and P T Usha was on the track. The eyes of all Indians not only in California stadium but also in front of television screens around the world were focused on Usha. At the signal shot Usha ran like a canon ball fired from a gun in the 400 race.

Everyone watching Usha thought that she won a medal. But when the result was announced Usha was 4th missing even the bronze medal. The Rumanian girl Vanita Christiana who ran with Usha at the last moment sprinted to secure the bronze medal. Usha lost it for a fraction of a second, in fact 1/100 of a second to be exact! This example tells us how important the time, even a fraction of a second.

We speak that time is precious. But often we waste our precious time. We see young people sitting at village squares, bus stands and cross roads making comments on passersby especially on ladies. Elders label them as useless, unemployed youth.

It is not bad thing to spend time with friends and chatting in lighter veins. Acquaintance and friendships can be built and strengthened in such informal meeting and chatting. But if such things continue for the most of the day, then it is certainly a waste of precious time. They do not know that time wasted in this manner can never be regained.

We have – everyone has – 24 hours a day. If we examine how we spend the 24 hours then we know how usefully or how uselessly we are using our precious time. Such review can help us to make the best of our time.
Everyone needs to sleep from 6 to 8 hours a day. Children may need to sleep more time while elders may need less time. An adult person needs to spend about 8 hours on his/her job, business or other engagements of earning. The test is how do we spend the remaining 8 hours of the day. We need a certain amount of time for meals and lighter refreshments like tea and snacks. We may also need about an hour for sports, games or other physical exercises.

Then, I think everyone needs also to spend some time in prayer, meditation or other devotional practices. For, I believe that a balanced person needs to care for his/her spirituality or interior life of peace and happiness to face all the vicissitudes of life. So people can spend a little time in the morning to praise and thank God for the day and for all the blessings of the Almighty. Similarly before going to bed a person can spend a little time to review the day and thank God for the good things of the day and repent one’s failures and resolve to do better in future.

Those who do not believe in God can be self satisfied for their achievements of the day. While rejoicing in the good works done in the day one can repent the evil which one has committed and resolve to do better. I am sure that those who repent with a sincere heart and decide to amend can sleep well enjoying a good night rest. Such people will never suffer from insomnia or sleepless nights,I wish that each person also spend quality time every day in the service of others especially of the needy persons without a trace of shelf interest. Spending time with others can bring joy and purposefulness in life. Such selfless services are visiting the sick, the elderly and lonely people and spending quality time with them. Rendering voluntary services through teaching and educating poor children or sharing talents and skills with them are selfless services. Such things can also bring joy and satisfaction to both the benefactor and the beneficiaries.

Then, I believe that every person need to set aside regular quality time for oneself and for one’s family. It means setting aside time for physical and mental exercises, developing hobbies or doing things which one enjoys like listening to music, singing songs or playing musical instruments. During the time set for oneself a person can examine his/her own life in terms of physical, spiritual and mental health. These are the areas in which a person needs to take initiative and do the needful.

Similarly setting aside quality time for one’s family members may involve mutual sharing hopes and aspirations, dreams and anxieties of life. It also means mutually appreciating and enjoying achievements and being supportive in failures and set back. The time spent thus can assure a person that there is always support and guidance in the family whenever they are needed. These types of sharing can not only enrich one’s life in a family but they can also bring peace and happiness to a person’s life.

“A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens has portrayed a realistic picture of time as we see it. The novel in its opening words says: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.”

What is important here is how we look at time and how we use it. We can evaluate our time by examining how we use our free time. Everyone uses his/her time according to personal likes and dislikes. For instance, I would like to use my free time for reading and reflecting. Others may like to listen to music or play musical instruments, to paint pictures or to chat with friends.

In this context what the Bible says about time is noteworthy. The book of Ecclesiastes says: “There is time for everything,… a time to be born and a time o die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.”

Finally, let me end this essay on our precious time by quoting from a beautiful poem entitled ‘God Knows’ by Minnie Louise Haskins. In our times of confusion and helplessness the poet tells us where to turn and from whom to seek help:
“And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: ‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’
And he replied,

‘Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.’

So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night. And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East….”
(The End)