People Aren't Interruptions
How a lunch invitation can mak the world a better place.
Have you ever been tempted to treat other people as an interruption in your day? Maybe you had your evening already planned and then someone asks if you want to grab dinner, or you’re about to take a nap and an old friend decides to give you a phone call right as you climb into bed, or a teacher asks you to do a little something extra to help out a struggling classmate. If you’ve been around this newsletter very long, you already know I’m working on balancing people and productivity, and it’s a hard thing to do. Recently, I was reminded of just how rewarding it is.
I had the privilege of spending a week in Nebraska for their State FFA Convention back in March, and I only knew a few people there. Throughout the week, I was thrown into the organized chaos called “running competitive events” and it was both intimidating and exciting. As an introvert who also loves people, I was thriving with the busy interactions during the day and then some quiet time to myself in the evenings. On my final day, I had some additional free time over lunch, and I was thrilled. I had plans to find a fun little spot in downtown Lincoln to work ahead on some homework and do some writing. Well, until someone asked to grab lunch with me.
The moment where someone asks to interrupt our plans reveals how we value others. I’m not proud of my initial internal reaction: it’s usually something along the lines of “oh no, that was MY time, and I don’t know if I want to share it.” Even if I don’t think the thought quite that directly, it’s what my hesitation means. Since when have we decided that we can own time? And since when have we decided that we’re better off by not sharing it?
Back to Nebraska. Someone invited me to lunch, my first internal voice said “but what about your free time?”, and then another voice showed up to criticize the initial selfish reaction. I said yes, we went to lunch, and it was the most refreshing hour of the week. But I almost missed it because I felt like someone else was an interruption, instead of seeing the opportunity for what it was: a chance to create value in the world. That might sound dramatic; how does spending time with someone make the world a better place?
Why Sharing Our Time Matters
When we choose to set aside our predetermined plans to make time for someone else, we show them they matter. When people know they matter, they feel empowered to do more good for others. When people do more good for others, the world gets better.
When we spend time with others, we learn from them. When we learn from others, we gain new perspectives. When we gain new perspectives, we live our lives more thoughtfully. When we live with more thought for others, the world gets better.
When we spend time with others, we find things in common. When we find things in common, we realize we’re not alone. When we know we’re not alone, we gain more confidence. When we have more confidence, we are inspired to take positive action. When we take positive action, the world gets better.
Here’s what I didn’t tell you about my lunch meeting: it was with someone who I knew from an online network, but I hadn’t met in person. Her name is Hannah Borg (do yourself a favor and go follow her on Twitter or Instagram) and as we talked over lunch, we learned just how many things we had in common that we would never have discovered had we not spent time in person. I am so grateful to her that she saw I was in Nebraska, sought me out, and invited me to lunch. She was busy that week, too, yet took the time to spend her lunch with me. She recognized that other people are not interruptions from our purpose; they are our purpose.
Yes, there will be times when we need to say no to a spontaneous invitation because it would take away the bandwidth we need for other commitments. But I’ve found that often I use productivity as an excuse to hide my selfishness, and I don’t want to live like that. In fact, I want to design my days such that I always have time for a spontaneous lunch invitation, phone call, or request to help someone out. It starts by remembering that every moment spent with another person is a chance to create value in the world. Will you join me?
Journal Prompt of the Week
When was the last time you made the mistake of treating someone else like an interruption? What will you do differently next time?
Share with the Community
What’s been the most impactful result from saying yes to a spontaneous invitation from someone else?