Croskey’s Corner: Punctuality
Laugh and the world laughs with you, be prompt and you dine alone.
– Gerald Barzan
The Quality of the Month is Punctuality. It is defined as showing respect for others by doing the right thing at the right time. One of the “I will…” statements is to prepare for unexpected delays. Seems like if you prepared for unexpected delays, you might end up arriving late instead of on time! Indeed, given the difficulties in air travel, being punctual sounds like it could lead to a lot of frustrated waiting. If you make sure you are on time for your flight, you will end up being there in plenty of time to wait in line. In school, if you show up for every meeting on time, you will end up sitting by yourself, waiting for others to arrive. I speak from experience.
Punctuality is one of those “will power” Character Qualities, which can end up sounding more like etiquette or politeness rules, rather than being guidelines for character. In such a case, there is the danger of assuming that only polite people “do” these things. It helps for us to remember that character is more than manners; it is an effective way of thinking about, interacting with, and treating people which makes the world a better place.
A central point to make is that in order to BE punctual, you have to be at the right place at the right time. That describes what we call “Timing.” Some people have it, some don’t. It matters when running backs are looking for “daylight” on the football field. It matters with baseball players hitting a fastball. But in addition to sports, Timing matters in our professional lives. Maybe you obtained a particular job because you happened to be hunting for a job on the day your employer was desperately looking to fill your job.
Good timing is one of those situations where “a miss is as good as a mile.” In no situation is this more crucial than with the well-timed comment by someone influential. Teachers are in this situation frequently. You have a room full of children, who all seem to be coming at you at the same time. For the teacher, timing is everything. Make the appropriate remark at the exact time, and you literally make a student’s day. Wait too long, or make a sarcastic or overly critical comment, and your timing will be awful. Probably most of us have seen that e-mail making the rounds which describes the suicidal teen who, because of a supportive comment, chooses not to go through with his plan to kill himself. Like you, I wondered if that was an urban legend or if it really happened. Regardless, it illustrates how crucial a well-timed comment can be.
Deborah Hansen, a veteran teacher from Florida, tells her story of moving into a new school at 5th grade and wanting to “make good.” The class was reading aloud, and Deborah counted ahead to figure out which paragraph she’d have to read when it was her turn. But, as prepared as she was, she read the text too quickly because she was in a hurry for it to be over. Her teacher said to the boy behind her, “Now, would you read that paragraph again so we can understand it this time?” Deborah says that the humiliation, and the shame, which she felt that day, are as fresh as the day she heard it. She spent 15 years as a teacher following the belief that a teacher’s words and attitudes have a lasting impact on the minds and souls of children placed in their paths and that teachers must treat these minds and souls with the tender care which such a gift deserves.
So, I hope that you make all your flights, keep all your appointments, and never have to wait in line. But, more importantly, I hope that kind words come at just the right moment to you and help you to learn and to grow. But I also wish for you the wisdom to know what to say, who to say it to, and exactly when to say it.