Good Times

Tree mirrored in water showing all four seasons

It's not just that you do something, but when you do it that often determines its success.

"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven."
                                                              Ecclesiastes 3:1              

For several months I had a lovely fall display in my yard with three big pumpkins strategically placed amidst piles of straw. After a couple of months, as food in the wild became more scarce, critters discovered that there was some good pumpkin to be had with just a bit of shredding.  Critter-lover that I am, I decided to leave the pumpkins there and let the hungry have their fill.

Of course the state of the pumpkins worsened until I had three piles of mashed pumpkin in the straw.  With a warm fall here in Massachusetts I thought I might have easy access to pumpkin pie if the sun got hot enough, but it was getting a bit embarrasing and I knew I needed to clean it up.  But it was a soggy, smushed mess and the messiness put me off.

Fast forward to today, several days into a cold snap that has left ice on the pond.  With the sun out and a day off, I decided to tackle the pumpkin mash.  They were frozen solid.  I picked up each one as a single unit and tossed them into trash bags.  Five minutes, no mess.  And I thought of Ecclesiastes and the fact that there is, in fact, a time for every purpose under heaven--even picking up mashed pumpkins.

With the changing of time and seasons here at the dawn of the new year, my pumpkins and Ecclesiastes reminded me that sometimes all the emphasis on doing everything at the very moment you know it needs doing isn't always best. You've heard the memes:  Handle every piece of paper or e-mail only once, the time is now, don't procrastinate, don't let things fester, etc.  And much of that is very good advice.  But Ecclesiastes reminds us that dealing with something immediately might not always be the best way.

Asking your boss for a raise right after you've missed a huge deadline might not be the best timing. Having a difficult conversation when the other person is tired and stressed after a long day at work could backfire.  Trying to work when you're sick or exhausted can result in mistakes and in some jobs bodily injury.  It's like cutting down a tree with a butter knife (or, for people who get the reference, a herring).  Working when fresh and rested gets the job done better and usually in half the time.  I learned this spring that there's even a correct time to buy a refrigerator!  

True procrastinators usually miss the right season for the task as well as the wrong one. The train comes to the station and they dawdle on the platform and miss it, often coming to the final seasons of life never having lived up to their potential or fully living the days that were given to them.  Carpe diem is sage advice.  We do need to seize the day.  But we first have to be able to recognize whether the day or the moment we are seizing is the right one.  Otherwise we can end up on the flip side of procrastination and become known for being rash or reckless.  Or our efforts fail when with better timing we could have succeeded beyond our wildest dreams.

The first step in identifying whether the time is right is simply to realize that everything has its season. There are right and wrong times for virtually everything.  Just remembering that can help us make better choices and be better stewards of the time, opportunities, and tasks we are given.

And if you want to buy a refrigerator, do it in May.  That's when new models come out and the old ones are marked down big time.  You're welcome.

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