Yesterday, toward the end of the shift, our supervisor came by and told us about a new company policy. Starting today, they’ll begin to tighten their tardiness policy. If someone comes in late, they’ll be verbally warned by a supervisor. There’ll be further steps, including a verbal warning from a manager, written warnings - all the way to being suspended, or even fired. The first step of this policy will be triggered by being even one minute late, one time. The supervisor made it clear that it’s a zero tolerance policy, and it’ll be enforced.
This very brief talk stayed with me as a mood, a kind of shadow, the rest of the day until I went to sleep. As an employee I pretty much give 100% of myself every minute I work. But I also do belong to the one to two minute late club.
My story to myself is that I’m a couple of minutes late because I’m giving 100% of my time to what I do before I get to work, too. That I’ve just got a lot on my plate, and I’m cutting it close. That I’m an altruistic guy, and spend my time on altruistic things. And do generally feel good about what I do. I went to sleep feeling somehow oppressed and sorry for myself.
I woke in the morning with a beautiful - but also disturbing - dream.
In the dream a pageant was being presented. It was a historical play, done in fine costumes, concerning kings and courtiers in Elizabethan times. It was graciously spoken, intelligent, performed at a dignified pace; and had both dramatic and humorous elements. There were many players and a musical accompaniment; and the audience watched with rapt attention.
What was especially striking, was that it was a community presentation. No one was a professional actor, and each had prepared his or her part privately. Rehearsal had been in small groups if at all, and the company had never all met in one place before the performance. But it was planned well, somehow, and it was truly lovely.
I watched and listened fascinated, along with everyone else; but with somewhere a feeling that something was wrong. It dawned on me that I too had a part on the performance, and a somewhat important one. I was due to give my part soon - but I realized that I had never, ever practiced.
I realized that my not delivering my part would leave a hole in the performance - and that if I stood up to try to deliver it, this would make matters still worse.
The dream was of the kind that goes on for a long time, with an accompanying mood of dread, and of casting about for an escape route. But always I always returned to the fact of being trapped. I realized that the preparation for the play had gone on for quite a long time, and that I could have learned my part, had I practice just minutes a day.
What does it mean to be mindful of a single minute ? To attend to small details? To be mindful of priorities, and to think ahead. Perhaps a lot.
It’s said that if we spend just an hour a day learning about something, after five years we’ll be a national authority on it. Perhaps then, perhaps, to be chastised for a minute’s tardiness, and take heed, than let hours - or beauty, graciousness, - a destiny, slip away from us !