I’ve written before about being on time, a most useful habit. But author Joseph Telushkin reminds us that sometimes simply being on time is not enough. Sometimes the right thing to do is be early. He tells the story of a mother who came to her daughter’s play. She was right on time. All the other children were happy and ready to go. Her daughter, on the other hand, was crying and very anxious. She’d seen all the other parents arrive and greet their children. She thought her own mother wasn’t coming at all.
Okay, admittedly, this is the sort of story that makes me all sappy, although I can only recall a couple of times that this happened to me as a child. One was after Sunday school. I was standing on the church steps trying to hold back tears as people poured into the building. A man asked me what was wrong. I told him that my dad had not picked me up.
“Where is your dad?” he asked. I pointed at the next house down the road. Yes, my grandfather’s house was about a half mile from the church and I could even see my dad’s car from the church steps. Okay, a spunkier kid would simply have walked. But what I lacked in spunk, I made up for in imagination. I thought maybe my father had suffered an accident and was lying in the driveway and none of my other relatives had noticed. I thought that maybe he’d been kidnapped. I thought many things, all of them resulting in my being deserted and alone. Hey, I was four at the time. All I knew was that my daddy was supposed to be there, and he wasn’t. So the world as I knew it was completely messed up.
But besides providing comfort for children, being early has other benefits. Early people tend to have their things organized before meetings, so meetings with them start on time. Being early for an appointment means that you’re not panicked if there’s a traffic jam. And the people in your life aren’t spending a lot of time wondering if you’re going to show up.
So for this week, be early. Even if you don’t see any tangible benefits, you’ll have the satisfaction of seeing the look of stunned surprise on the faces of your family, friends, and colleagues.