Maureen Pratt

Maureen Pratt

My nugget of wisdom for today’s graduates isn’t about bringing world peace or making loads of money. It isn’t about “remembering these days because they are the best,” and it isn’t about “keep your friends close always.”

My advice is simpler and can have a profound impact on our relationships, health, career and quality of life, make the world hum along wonderfully, and even make a positive difference on our faith.

What is that nugget of wisdom? Be on time.

From the doctor’s office to department of motor vehicle appointments, so often we expect we’ll have to wait past our scheduled time. In an urban setting, being on time can be impossible because of traffic, construction detours and other roadblocks. And with schedules packed with activities, simply getting together can be a feat accomplished only after a movie has begun or the dinner hour is over.

But this does not take away from the power of punctuality. Yes, power. When we strive to be on time, many positive and potentially life-changing things can happen.

From the very first time I set out on a job interview, I followed this advice: “Be on time … or even early.” This enabled me to show my enthusiasm and it also helped me gauge the workplace, especially if I arrived ahead of schedule. Later, when I was in a position to hire other employees, I had great respect for those who came a little before their interview or, at least, who came on time.

Punctuality has an effect on the workplace. Stores that do not open on time risk losing customers. Work that lags can delay whole departments. Morale can fray even when one employee is allowed to arrive chronically late. If one can do it and get away with it, why not others? And, woe to the business that doesn’t pay its workers on time!

In the world of health care, being on time with lab results, medication or emergency intervention can mean the difference between a good or poor outcome, life or death. The patient who is late for an appointment clogs the schedule for others, especially if he or she does not alert the staff ahead of time.

Relationships thrive on trust and respect. But if one person is chronically late, this frays at that trust and respect. I remember one relative who was four hours late to her wedding. The mood among the guests was about as festive as the flowers that had wilted by the time the bride finally showed up.

Even our faith benefits from being on time, especially the Mass. If we arrive late, we do not benefit fully from all that the Mass has to offer.

Being late often increases stress on us and those with whom we’re meeting. But being on time reduces that stress and allows us to enjoy each other’s company.

There will be times when we cannot help but be delayed, but the more we strive for being on time, the less stress and the greater benefit we and other people in our lives will feel.