Jay Shirley

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The Daily Practice

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Time isn't fair

Published: 07 Mar 2013

Life is not fair. I was raised with this understanding and never expecting fairness has served me well. The depth of this simple statement was lost on me until recently. Time itself isn’t fair. The value of a minute changes, and what could be fair for me now is not fair later. This leads us to another popular expression: When it rains, it pours.

I try to keep myself busy in general, but I still often times find myself with 5 or 10 minutes where I’m idling. I never valued these minutes, or saw how they exist in conjunction with the world around me.Right now, these moments are usually occupied by humankind’s favorite pastime: talking. It does’ thane to be. Those five minutes can be more valuable than five minutes at other times.

My wife and I have divided up the responsibilities quite clearly in our household. There is little to no ambiguity. I have responsibilities and so does she, it keeps our house chugging along nicely with very little friction. After dinner, she cleans the kitchen and fixes lunch for our son. I stand around yammering, not valuing the time I have.

Then my wife simply asked, “If you aren’t doing anything else, could you load the dishwasher?”

This was a powerful question. I certainly can load the dishwasher, even while I continue my orations (much to her chagrin). It didn’t even take a full 5 minutes, which meant it was a trivial time investment. This simple act was of immense help to her. Her evenings are busy, each minute is of extreme value.

My evening is my relaxation time, her evening is her busiest and most taxing time. A trivial gesture of giving her five minutes has a huge impact. This shows the distinct and direct imbalance in the value of time. Trivial expenditures from someone can bring disproportionate value to someone else.

It is wrong, and all together too common, to think that the value of each minute is constant. More importantly, to think that the value of someone else’s minute is constant and relative to our own.

By being mindful and understanding the experiences of others, we can learn how to maximize when and how to spend our time to reap the maximum benefits for them.

Ask yourself in any idle moment if someone would value your idle moments. Many of these actions are trivial. Actions that wouldn’t be remembered 30 minutes later, but the recipients will remember for hours, if not days or longer. That’s a good trade off.