Sunday, September 27, 2015

Who Gets the Worm?

There are two kinds of people in the world: early birds and those who run late. Neither group can understand the other. Is one worse than the other? You tell me.

When I go someplace I am usually not doing anything important before I leave. That means there’s no reason to be late. There’s plenty of time to get ready and leave early. All I would be missing would be sleep or TV. Being ready to leave 30 minutes early means I don’t have to rush. Gives me more time to remember things I may have forgotten. Leaving early allows for unexpected traffic. When I’m going somewhere I don’t go every day I’m not sure about traffic, where I will be parking, how long it takes to get from the parking lot to where I’m going, and how long the wait will be once I get there. Leaving and arriving early allows me time to figure out all these things.

On Sundays I like to get to church in time to figure out where I’m going to sit before the service starts. The seats start to fill up at least ten minutes before the service starts. I want to be there before that. Finding parking places and making the walk inside can sometimes take time. I often run into people I know that want to chat. If I’m late I miss that opportunity. If I have to walk into an unfamiliar church (or class or doctor’s office, etc.) five minutes after a service begins, it is hard for me to get into a spirit of worship.

Being late tells people that you think your time is more important than their time. Coming into a church service late (or leaving the service early) distracts everyone who can see you – which is usually most of the people in attendance. I don’t want people to take their thoughts off God to look at me. I should be doing the opposite.    

When I arrive early I can be the first person to buy a ticket or get waited on or checked in. Being at the front of the line has more advantages. Less waiting. You usually get served first. Remember if I’m early and have to wait, all I’m missing is a little sleep or sitting around the house. Arriving on time for an appointment puts me behind all the people who arrived early. The office may be behind schedule.  

As a kid I loved getting to a Braves or Falcons game early. There’s already so much going on of interest. Kickers kicking. Snappers snapping. Passers passing. Punters punting. Coaches chatting. Music playing. Uniforms and shoes and socks. Announcements and videos on the Jumbotron. It’s even fun to watch the other fans arriving. Ceil’s brother is the same way. Fans who don’t make it to their seats until kickoff or first pitch have already missed so much. Same with leaving the game early – even if one team has a huge lead. It may be “garbage time” but even then you get to see players who usually don’t get to play. Same deal with a concert or vacation or amusement park. Think about all that money you paid to attend the event, and all the trouble you took to get there. Why wouldn’t you want to make it last as long as possible?

People who arrive habitually late usually aren’t bothered by their lateness. This infuriates the early-birds. In my experience the late person just fails to take into account how long it takes to get ready and go somewhere. They may count backwards the time required but fail to include extra time to arrive early or avoid unexpected delays. No matter how many times this mistake is made the late person never seems to change their ways. It’s not our job to change people. We are called to love people the way God made them. We can pray for change, but that’s up to God. We are called to put others ahead of ourselves. Doesn’t this mean we shouldn’t keep them waiting?     

Perhaps Martha was an early bird and Mary was always late. Is lateness tied to personality type? Are late arrivers the outgoing type A people-persons and early birds the compliant type B people-pleasers? This does not seem to be the case. When I leave someone in the car while running into a store for a couple of items, invariably I forget they are waiting and lose my urgency. Should the person waiting in the car not learn this is most always the case? Are we both not at fault?  

People can’t always be early. Sometimes more than one important event occurs at almost the same time. Too often I choose to cram in both events, so usually I can’t have the full experience at neither. Sometimes it’s better to say no and not try to do everything. Likewise when telling someone what time you’ll arrive don’t try to please them by answering with a time you’re highly unlikely to make. Better to say 4 pm and arrive at three than to be 30 minutes late.  
While it stresses me out to be late, it actually stresses Ceil out when I hurry her along. Her funeral will start five minutes after the hour. Mine should start five minutes early.

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