As a school principal, I worked hard to have an open door policy with my staff. In addition to keeping my office door open, I set aside time every Monday to make myself available to whoever wanted to drop by and speak with me. Did they have a procedural question? Were clarifications needed about an upcoming event? Perhaps they just wanted to share something exciting or troublesome that was going on in their life.
With all of my intent to be open and available to my staff, it never failed. A huge deadline would be looming and there was much that needed to be done. It was at that exact moment someone would come to my office door and say those dreaded words, “Do you have a minute?” I would usually respond, “Yes, but just a minute – I have lots to do…” The person requesting my time would come in close the door and usually share something heartbreaking. “I just found out that I have cancer and I will need to miss some time away from school.” My husband is having an affair and I don’t know what to do.” It was at that moment that I felt like a heel. How could I have been in such a hurry to get the person in and out and they have such a huge burden to share?
Let’s face it – time is our most precious commodity. It is the one thing that we are all given equally and that we don’t want to part with. The needs of life are seldom convenient or responsive to what we had planned. Whether the event is a happy time such as a wedding or birth, or a difficult time such as a trip to the hospital or death, it interferes with the time we consider our own. But making time to go and be with the person in need or the one who is celebrating is the right thing to do. I have to admit that on more than one occasion, I have been at home relaxing or wanting to do something fun and I was supposed to attend a funeral visitation, a wedding or some other event. It was so tempting to do “my” thing instead of getting up, changing clothes and going to be there for my friend. Most of the time, I make the right decision, which is to get up, get ready and go. When you do that, you are investing and growing strong relationships. I had someone tell me today, how much it meant to him to see friends at his mother’s funeral; he appreciated people taking the time to support him in a difficult time. When I called to check on a friend today, she shared that her co-workers had overwhelmed her with notes of encouragement and a scavenger hunt with a coupon for a massage at the end of the quest. The cost? Time. The benefit? Priceless.
My small group once read and discussed the book Everybody's is Normal Until You Get to Know Them by John Ortberg. One of the questions posed in the book was, “Who would you call if you had a crisis or needed something in the middle of the night?” I know that when I went through a divorce, some good friends who lived close to me told me that if I was afraid or needed anything, even in the middle of the night to give them a call. There was no doubt in my mind that they were sincere in their offering. I memorized their phone number and although I never called, it made me feel more secure; twenty-five years later, I still have that phone number memorized. All of us want and need to have friends and relationships with people. No one wants or needs to be alone. I am glad that friends in crisis have called me in the middle of the night and at other times when they were in need. I have rushed to the emergency room to pray with and be there for friends even though I felt very inadequate. I am thankful that I have friends that I feel comfortable calling when my life falls apart.
Who can you call in the middle of the night? If you have trouble coming up with someone, it may be time to invest. Relationships don’t just happen, they are intentional and they take time. Just as a garden after planting needs care - watering, weeding and sunshine, relationships need care as well. Be intentional about your relationships. Take the time to nurture and grow those relationships so that you will have a group of friends some of whom you can call in the middle of the night. This will be time well invested.