I’m Generous With My Time
My time is what people value from me the most.
I’m still thinking about Keanu Reeves and his attitude about money and time. He’s finding ways to make himself valuable, but he makes himself of value to others by being generous with his time.
So I’m thinking about how I use my time around other people. I’m thinking that I need to give more of my time to other people. I need to share my time with other people. When I share my time with other people, life gets better.
I know, I’m late to the party. I was raised by introverts and I’m an introvert. I am hard of hearing and I go inside for peace. I worry about saying “what?”. If I say “what?”, you might think I’m distant, aloof, stupid, or maybe I’m just not suitable for mating.
I find peace in reading, writing and sometimes, just reflecting. I don’t really find peace outside of myself. I’ve tried TV, movies, video games and driving. All of that stuff outside of me, that’s hard to extract peace from. So I go inside. I can hear every word that I think. I hear every word that I read and write. I never miss a word when I read. I worry about that.
But to enjoy life, I must enjoy it with others. We are built to be together. We are made to work together. Our success as a species (if you can call it that) is dependent on our working together.
I’ve seen it with my life with my wife and family. I’ve been married for 13 years. I’ve been a father for 7 years. I’ve tried to go back in my mind to a life without them, my family, and I shudder at the thought. So I think of being together before I think of being apart. I avoid saying the word “divorce” in jest, as a threat, or as a serious subject of contemplation.
I have become so enamored of the shared life that I make a point of not keeping score. I don’t worry about who spends what money. I want to save money, sure. But between my wife and me, I’m not keeping score. The money keeps coming back. It’s like an annual flood around tax time. I’ve seen money lost mysteriously returned to me, not from the same hole that it went down, but from some other spout in the universe. It just keeps coming back.
I see the shared life as an improvisation exercise on stage. I used to take improvisation classes and the teacher, he said something I will never forget. “The number one rule of improvisation is to never say ‘no’”. So I avoid saying “no”. I say no to set limits on my kids, sure. But most times, I say “yes”.
I started by saying yes to friendship and recovery. Then I said yes to marriage. I mean, I said, “I do”, but I was speaking in the affirmative. I said yes to moving to Utah. I said yes to a house, and then another. Then I said yes to two kids. I say yes to them, all the time. My wife and my kids have been training me to be generous with my time.
That generosity took me from being very poor to being kind of comfortable. As I write this, I’m reminded of what I read about the gift economy. It’s this idea that an economy can be built on gifting each other. If I create value for you for free, you will feel that you owe me something in return, even without a contract. I have seen the gift economy at work in my life.
I’ve taken notice of the people who do service around the country. They are often in good financial shape. They are generous with their time, and they don’t seem terribly concerned with money. And somehow, their needs are met. Somehow, they prosper. I’ve seen this in program and I’ve seen this in public life. I have a Mormon neighbor who shoveled my driveway and walkway just the other day. I’m not even Mormon and he’s happy. He seems to know there is value in being generous with his time.
Because I’m hard of hearing, I tend to be a bit shy. I tend to monopolize conversations so that I can anticipate what people are saying. I have tinnitus and that makes life a bit more difficult. But I have found something interesting here. If I’m giving someone my attention, they tend to be forgiving of my deficits. They tend to let things slide when I make a mistake. They tend to see the upside with me when I’m generous with my time.
I’m running this sort of experiment at my day job. I used to ask for overtime pay all the time. But I noticed something. I wasn’t the one climbing the ladder like I’ve seen some people do. I recalled my manager saying that she was doing ten-hour days and not being paid for the OT. But they noticed her work and made her a manager. So I stopped asking for overtime. I can do this for a year and see what happens. I still have money in the bank. I have a job and it’s decent pay. I’m running this experiment to see if the company I work for noticed my gifts.
This isn’t to say that I’m keeping score. This is to say that I want to see how the universe responds. I see the universe as a computing system. For every input, there is an output. For every action, there is a reaction. I want to see what comes back from my inputs.
Which raises an interesting question. Where do my inputs come from? Where do I get “me”? Where do I get more than what I need, more than enough, so that I have something to give? I really don’t know the answer to that question. But I can surmise that what I can give to someone else is a result of the natural abundance of the universe.
On this planet alone, there is enough for me. I have had enough air, water, and food to persist to this day. I have had enough rest, enough nourishment, enough love, that I can sit here, every morning, and write. And what I write is a gift. I write for myself, sure, but I give it away here to see what comes back. It doesn’t seem like much at first, but over time, it compounds, like interest. When I write and post an article, I am being generous with my time.
When I say “good morning” to my wife and kids, I am being generous with my time. When I go to work for my keep, my home, and my family, I’m being generous with my time. When I get home and play with my kids, and talk with my wife, I’m being generous with my time. When I kiss them goodnight, I’m being generous with my time.
When I look back on my life, where I have been selfish with my time, I have suffered. Where I have given freely of my time, I have prospered more than I could have imagined. I wasn’t counting on it. I didn’t make any predictions. I just gave my time to see what would happen next. If you show up, I show up. That’s my rule in life.
And every time I showed up, my life got better. Every time I shared my time with someone else, my life got better. I can’t think of any example in my past where my life did not get better as a result of me sharing my time with someone else…Nah. I really can’t come up with any examples where I did not benefit or profit from sharing my time with other people. I think life is that way by design.
So I’m generous with my time.