Please Leave Work Early

by Joshua Michtom

Do you know when I thought I’d find some use in anything former Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist ever said or wrote? Never. But a friend (whom I also never expected to quote Rehnquist) posted something on Facebook that the ol’ Chief said at a commencement address in 1989, and it’s actually spot-on, and a good thing to think about as we commence what is sure to be another beautiful late-summer weekend:

Those who are putting in those last few hours at the job tell themselves that they don’t have time now, but after they have finally made partner, or finally saved another so many thousand dollars, then at last they will have the time, and they will take it.

Unfortunately, this is a very slippery slope to tread. There are some things that can only be done during a certain part of one’s life. You can only be a father or a mother to a young child while the child is young. Children soon enough grow away from their parents, and you can’t really tell an eighteen-year-old that at long last daddy is ready to play with him.

The time to help out a friend who is in trouble is now; your help won’t do that friend any good two weeks from now or two years from now. We all have to schedule our lives to some extent if we are going to perform useful functions in the world. But the totally scheduled person has ruled out in advance the possibility of any spontaneous responses to very deserving calls for help, for friendship, for service. These people may tell themselves that they are only postponing the opportunity to do these things, but in fact they are sacrificing that opportunity.

So my — and Rehnquist’s — advice to you is to leave work early today, if at all possible. Go have fun with someone you care about.

Photo by the author.

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