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BREAKING IN A NEW CALENDAR

January 2, 2016

At 3:30 A.M. last Wednesday morning, our daughter and her family were packed and ready to depart for their home in Chicago. Clare was rocking our three-year-old granddaughter, saying goodbye. The little girl was sad to leave after a delightful Christmas visit with us here in the Upstate. She said to Clare, “When we have time together we need to savor every moment.”

We were all surprised at this profound truth spoken by our grandchild. “Out of the mouths of babes…” came to mind. Those parting words prompted this column.
When I worked at the lumberyard, the family business started by my grandfather, the days leading up to New Year’s Day were always the time to take inventory. Every 2×4, every bag of mortar mix, every piece of plywood had to be counted. My uncles, my dad, and my grandfather would spend the week counting. I remember taking a pad and pencil to one of the smaller warehouses to count doors and windows. Taking inventory was a tedious task, but it was necessary to the operation of a small business.

Since those days at the lumberyard, I have realized the importance of taking an annual personal inventory. I have tried to set aside some time in the last week of the year to take inventory of my life. I usually get a new calendar for Christmas. I ignore the telephone and sit down with last year’s calendar and a calendar for the year ahead. This has become for me an important time of self-examination, prayer, and decision-making.

Some years ago, during my private year-end inventory, I complained to God that I did not have enough time to do all of the things I wanted to accomplish.

In a moment of quiet reflection, I received a message from God. Mind you, there was no flash of light, no audible voice. There was only a quiet truth seeping into my heart and mind.

“Kirk, you have exactly the amount of time that I intend for you to have, no more, no less. I have given you 24 hours every day, seven days every week. Day-by-day, week-by-week, this is what I allot to all of my children. You have the same amount of time as Mother Theresa had. You have the same amount of time I give to Bill Gates and Billy Graham. Albert Einstein and Albert Schweitzer received the very same allotment I give to you. Look at your calendar. This is the time I give to you for the year ahead. How will you use it?”

I realized that, not only do I have enough time, I have exactly the right amount of time, the time God had ordained for me.

A teenager proudly showed me his new Christmas present.
“A new wristwatch!”
“No, it’s not a wristwatch. It is a chronometer. It is very precise, very accurate.”

The new gift on his left wrist looked just like a watch to me. The name chronometer reflects the meaning of the Greek word chronos. It means time that can be measured, time that is sequential.

A year-end personal inventory presents us with a new calendar, a clean slate. Some things have already been planned for the New Year, but before filling up the spaces, make a list of the things you simply do not want to neglect.

Certain occasions, such as holidays and anniversaries, come around only once a year. When I have gotten a new calendar from Clare for Christmas, the important days have sometimes been marked for me. For most of our married life we have had regular calendar sessions together. It is a safeguard against a husband’s absent-minded ways.

The birth of a child, beginning first grade, a graduation, a wedding, all are occasions that happen just once in a person’s life. Sometimes these things can be planned ahead of time and written on the calendar. Often they are unpredictable and require a spontaneous response.

These non-repetitive events have been some of the high points in our marriage. I think especially of the birth of each of our children. Being together in those miraculous moments are treasured memories for us.

The Latin expression tempus fugit, time flies, is frequently inscribed on clocks and sundials. The Roman poet Virgil wrote, fugit irreparabile tempus, which means, irretrievable time flees.

It expresses concern that our limited time is being consumed by something that has little or no importance. Time is irretrievable; once gone, it’s gone.

One spring afternoon, I listened to a young mother describe her day. “I wanted to spend some time working in my garden. First, I had a number of errands to run. I left home early, dropped my third grader off at elementary school, took my four-year-old to preschool, picked up a breakfast biscuit at a fast food restaurant, dropped several letters in the gooseneck at the Post Office, went by the bank to make a deposit, dropped books in the return drop at our public library, picked up a prescription at the pharmacy drive-through, and I left dirty clothes and picked up clean laundry at our local dry cleaners. All the while, I was talking on the cell phone. By then it was time to pick up my four-year-old. We returned to the same fast food restaurant to pick up lunch. When I got home, I realized that I hadn’t even been to the bathroom. In fact, I never got out of the car!”

Most of us have had similar days.

Taken together, the two Latin phrases, tempus fugit, time flies, and carpe diem, seize the day, help us understand how we can best be good managers of our time.

Time is constantly moving. It stands still for no one. We need to make the most of every opportunity.

So, on the very last day of our Christmas holiday celebration, very early in the morning, our three-year-old granddaughter was sitting on Clare’s lap. They talked about how much we had all enjoyed our visit together. With some sadness grandmother and grandchild spoke about the impending separation that would soon follow when this child’s family returned to Chicago.

And, all the adults were taken by surprise to hear the little girl  say, “When we have time together we need to savor every moment.”
It was a remarkable statement for a child, one that she had no doubt heard from some adult in her world. It is a lesson that she has learned from her mother and her grandmother.
In that brief early-morning moment our granddaughter became a little professor for all of us, speaking a truth that we all need to remember.

A good resolution for the new year is to savor every moment, especially those we share with the people we love.

With our grandchild’s admonition in mind, I look forward to breaking in a brand new calendar for a brand new year.

Clare joins me in wishing for each of you a blessed new year.

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