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It's About Time!

Updated: Mar 5

It appears that arriving late is becoming increasingly more common. For some, it is the rule more than the exception. Late arrivals can regularly be seen at church, work, appointments, performances, even funerals and weddings. The required daily sign-in log at the front entrance of schools records the daily flow of late arrivals. Though many assume that arriving late for school is primarily a high school problem, when examining records of high school students who are chronically late and/or have high rates of absenteeism, it is often noted that the trend began in elementary school – as early as kindergarten.

In today’s climate, time insensitivity is pervasive, spilling over into areas previously considered out-of-bounds. The last time I received a jury summons, not only were there several late arrivals the first day, when the final twenty-five were selected for the next step in the process and told to report the following morning no later than 9:25, four were still in absentia at 9:45! Finally, at 10:00, all were accounted for, making way for the judge to proceed. I wondered if anyone else was as appalled as I was at the total disrespect demonstrated by those who arrived late. One potential juror breezed in late with a McDonald’s breakfast and another with a Starbuck’s coffee in hand. Neither, I might add, openly apologized to the bailiff upon arrival.

To imply that this is a character issue will no doubt ruffle some feathers. The dictionary defines character as the “mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.” Trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship have been cited as six pillars of good character. These pillars typically develop over time, beginning in early childhood, and are most effectively instilled in children when consistently modeled by parents.

Sadly, children who grow up observing adults who regularly disregard time-related expectations receive a direct lesson in irresponsibility as well as selfishness. Those who arrive late on a regular basis may not consider it to be a big deal. But the reality is that it is absolutely a big deal to those who are impacted. To be fair, there are times when arriving late or needing to cancel is unavoidable. However, arriving late should never be the norm and should always include an apology.

Even for parents who model what they preach, the message may not always resonate as they would like. Many a teen has had to learn lessons the hard way. Case in point: A good friend’s daughter learned the importance of being on time when, as a teenager, she secured her first summer job. A nice young lady, Lydia was a good student and always polite. The second day on the job, however, she arrived a few minutes late and was shocked when she was immediately fired. Her boss, a fine, decent, gentleman was not having it. Recognizing the impact that his no-nonsense policy could have on Lydia’s future work life, he put the monkey squarely on her back. Fifteen years later, Lydia is a dependable, successful college graduate who has moved up in the ranks of her career. Rather than defend her daughter, to this day her mother continues to espouse that there could not have been a better response to her daughter’s failure to get to work on time. She was right.

© Sharon Knapp Lamberth, November 2021

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