Gift of Time
Sharing Time Can Be a Mutually Rewarding Experience
by Rex Gogerty of Hubbard, Iowa
After spending much of my life working and living on an Iowa farm, I’ve learned the value of budgeting time. When nature and markets dictate your schedule, you learn to manage your hours on and off the job. You can invest them in a well-deserved vacation, spend them engrossed in a best seller, or “waste them” dreaming unreachable dreams.
I’ve found sharing time with others is a good way to brighten their day, and yours. Kids, grandkids, and other family members deserve a regular slot in your busy schedule. Camping, fishing, and just hanging out are great ways to share time with young people. Spending time with kids can also be a great learning experience for adults.
My neighbor, Jack, sets aside time for kid getaways. For example, he spends three hours a week sharing story hour with his 3- and 5-year-olds at the local library. For him, kid stuff is a welcome break from his field and hog operations. He says the kids benefit more from thoughtful bonding than from a new DVD player.
Leaders of 4-H clubs, scout troops, soccer teams, and other youth groups say the rewards far offset the inconvenience of being away from their workaday world. For me, teaching religion classes at St. Gabriel’s has broadened my perspective and at times tested my patience.
Flash back. One of the best ways to unwind from any job is to spend time with people who are confined to their homes or care centers. They’re eager for news about mutual acquaintances and local happenings. Family life is also a fun subject to share with the rural elderly. They have a treasure chest of stories about traveling salesmen, horse trading, and family reunions.
My friend, Frank, remembers filling a triple-box wagon with hand-husked ears of corn twice a day besides milking eight cows “just to get a grip on life.” Harry recalls breaking colts and picking cotton when he was growing up in Texas. Bill, who operated a steam engine on a local threshing run, says pitching on a load of oat bundles required skill as well as muscle. “Greenhorns who got in a hurry could lose the corner of a lop-sided load,” he says.
I try to choose different conversation starters to match various career backgrounds. For example, Barry spent much of his life as an auto mechanic. So his model car collection, which includes a 1949 Tucker, is good for openers. Mary ran a small town café where the menu included plenty of coffee, conversation, and card games. At 97, she still enjoys a game of cribbage.
George and his brothers worked in the family produce. One of their jobs was to slide a 250 pound block of ice into each rail car to cool eggs en route to Chicago. During the winter, they substituted coal stoves for ice blocks.
Entertainment center. Most of my hosts grew up in the Midwest. We have common interests ranging from home-canned beef to one-room schools. Their stories also include epic tales about the times of their lives. Mike and his brother drove a new 1925 Model T Ford to Oregon and back, stopping along the way to punch cows or pick pears.
As a child in the 1920’s, Helen and her family huddled in the basement of their home to escape a twister that devastated their farmstead. Sabina, who was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., lived most of her 96 years in Long Island before moving to Iowa to be near her daughter. A visit with Sabina opens a window on the sidewalks of New York, from the days of horse-drawn trolleys to construction of the World Trade Center.
Howard chaired a university English department for 20 of his 80 years. A stroke confined him to a wheelchair, but that hasn’t slowed his continuing education program. He recently subscribed to a “Spanish on tape” course. He says he’s interested because Spanish is becoming our second language.
Time-sharing is relaxing, but it can be addictive. Jane interrupts her soccer mom schedule to stop by, run errands, and bake cookies for house-bound neighbors. Retired banker Joe has logged over 4,000 hours swapping stories with fellow veterans at the local veteran’s hospital. “It’s been my pleasure,” he says.
Sharing time needn’t involve clubs, schedules, even appointments. In fact, at most care centers, if one friend is playing bingo, knock on the next door. Walk in with your gift of time, which has lasting value when it’s wrapped with loving care.