“When we love something it is of value to us, and when something is of value to us we spend time with it, time enjoying it and time taking care of it.  Observe a teenager in love with his car and note the time he will spend admiring it, polishing it, repairing it, tuning it.  Or an older person with a beloved rose garden, and the time spent pruning and mulching and fertilizing and studying it.  So it is when we love children; we spend time admiring them and caring for them.  We give them our time.”   M. Scott Peck M.D., The Road Less Traveled

I always say that our relationships are our most valuable treasures.  Relationships bring texture to our lives.  Important life events are hollow without someone to share them with, and possessions are meaningless if we enjoy them alone.  We are on this planet to be in relationship with each other, and relationships take time.

If you’re anything like me, your life is very busy.   There is money to be made, and phone calls to make, errands to run and chores to take care of.  There are club meetings, committees, church, rehearsals, leads groups, and countless other obligations eating up your time.   The result of all this activity is that we tend to neglect the very people whose presence in our lives make everything meaningful.  Our kids try to share things with us, but we’re on the phone or making dinner so we shoo them away: “Mommy’s talking — don’t interrupt!”  Tonight, for instance, I’m writing this blog about paying attention to the people you love, but because I’m trying to make my Wednesday deadline, I’m only pretending to listen to Keith on the couch next to me trying to tell me about his day.   When we’re too busy, the people we love most pay the price of our neglect.

We ignore the people we love most because we forget how impermanent our time with them is.  When someone is a major part of our lives, we tend to think they will be there forever.  We think there will be time tomorrow, or next weekend, or next month, and then we’ll all do something nice together.  We forget that the only time we ever really have is the here-and-now.  There are no guarantees of tomorrow, let alone next month.

One of the great truths of life is that it is impermanent.  Things change, and people move on.  Children grow up, lovers come and go, and eventually the people we love will die, either slowly or suddenly.   When that happens, all we have left are the memories of the time we’ve spent together.   I’ve lost quite a few people over the course of my life, and I find that my most cherished memories are not of planned major events, like trips to Disney World; rather, they are the small, magical moments when time briefly stood still  and we cherished each other.

Take a moment to remember someone who has passed out of your life.  What are the memories of them that you most cherish?   What made those moments so magical?   Why do those memories stand out above all others?   My guess is that the memories you most cherish are not of big events, but rather are of small, almost insignificant snippets of time when you and that person were totally present for each other.  You had their undivided attention, even for a few minutes, and it made you feel loved.

Cherish those memories, and make it a point every day to make new memories of the same eternal quality.  Be fully present with the people who matter to you, even if only for a few moments.  When you’re talking to your children or your spouse, really pay attention to them.  Give them your complete and undivided attention.  When they want to talk to you, make some time to really listen to them.  Carve out moments in your busy schedule to simply be with someone that you love.  Cherish them, appreciate them, be grateful for them.  When they’re gone, you’ll be glad that you did.

Give the gift of your time to someone that you love.  The dishes can wait.