My bride and I have been to many places over the last decade, but our most enjoyable vacations have been the ones we’ve shared with family and friends. Unfortunately, I had come to take those “shared times” for granted. Then, a woman I worked with at IBM sent me the following:
A young man learns what’s most important in life from the guy next door.
Over the phone, his mother told him, “Mr. Belser died last night. The funeral is Wednesday.” Memories flashed through his mind like an old newsreel as he sat quietly remembering his childhood days.
“Jack, did you hear me?”
“Oh, sorry, Mom. Yes, I heard you. It’s been so long since I thought of him. I’m sorry, but I honestly thought he died years ago,” Jack said…
“Well, he didn’t forget you. Every time I saw him he’d ask how you were doing. He’d reminisce about the many days you spent over ‘his side of the fence’ as he put it,” Mom told him.
“I loved that old house he lived in,” Jack said.
“You know, Jack, after your father died, Mr. Belser stepped in to make sure you had a man’s influence in your life,” she said.
“He’s the one who taught me carpentry,” he said. “I wouldn’t be in this business if it weren’t for him. He spent a lot of time teaching me things he thought were important. Mom, I’ll be there for the funeral,” Jack said.
As busy as he was, he kept his word. Jack caught the next flight to his hometown. Mr. Belser’s funeral was small and uneventful. He had no children of his own, and most of his relatives had passed away.
The night before he had to return home, Jack and his Mom stopped by to see the old house next door one more time.
Standing in the doorway, Jack paused for a moment. It was like crossing over into another dimension, a leap through space and time The house was exactly as he remembered. Every step held memories. Every picture, every piece of furniture. Jack stopped suddenly…
“What’s wrong, Jack?” his Mom asked.
“The box is gone,” he said
“What box?” Mom asked.
“There was a small gold box that he kept locked on top of his desk. I must have asked him a thousand times what was inside. All he’d ever tell me was ‘the thing I value most,'” Jack said.
It was gone. Everything about the house was exactly how Jack remembered it, except for the box. He figured someone from the Belser family had taken it.
“Now I’ll never know what was so valuable to him,” Jack said. “I better get some sleep. I have an early flight home, Mom.”
It had been about two weeks since Mr. Belser died. Returning home from work one day Jack discovered a note in his mailbox. “Signature required on a package. No one at home. Please stop by the main post office within the next three days,” the note read. Early the next day Jack retrieved the package. The small box was old and looked like it had been mailed a hundred years ago. The handwriting was difficult to read, but the return address caught his attention. “Mr. Harold Belser” it read. Jack took the box out to his car and ripped open the package. There inside was the gold box and an envelope. Jack’s hands shook as he read the note inside.
“Upon my death, please forward this box and its contents to Jack Bennett. It’s the thing I valued most in my life.” A small key was taped to the letter. His heart racing, as tears filling his eyes, Jack carefully unlocked the box. There inside he found a beautiful gold pocket watch.
Running his fingers slowly over the finely etched casing, he unlatched the cover. Inside he found these words engraved:
“Jack, Thanks for your time! -Harold Belser.”
“The thing he valued most was… my time”
Jack held the watch for a few minutes, then called his office and cleared his appointments for the next two days. “Why?” Janet, his assistant asked.
“I need some time to spend with my son,” he said.
“Oh, by the way, Janet, thanks for your time!”
Sadly, I have no idea who wrote those words. Likewise I have no idea if it’s a true story or not. What I do know is that they are words of wisdom. We all need to devote more time to those we love, and to recognize and appreciate the time they spend with us.
The other day I had lunch with a man who is planning his fiftieth wedding anniversary. He has already told his children that he and his wife do not want a big fancy dinner or any other “surprise” party their children might think of planning. What he and his bride want is to repeat a vacation they took several years ago. Their entire family rented a large house near the beach and spent a week together. They took turns preparing meals and cleaning up and thoroughly enjoyed their time together.
I think he and his wife have already recognized and appreciate the value of time spent with loved ones.
Whoever came up with the “quality time” phrase needs to spend “quantity” time with loved ones. They are much more important than the job or anything else.
So, get started in planning that big family vacation. You’ll be glad you did!