No phrase rings more truly, when it comes to American business, than “time is money.” The old pragmatist Benjamin Franklin first used the phrase in 1746 when he wrote, “Remember that Time is Money. He that can earn Ten Shillings a Day by his Labour, and goes abroad, or sits idle one half of that Day, tho’ he spends but Sixpence during his Diversion or Idleness, ought not to reckon That the only Expence; he has really spent or rather thrown away Five Shillings besides.”* His point was that time not used for productive purposes is wasted effort and ultimately unfruitful.
I’d like to reverse the sentiment of Franklin’s message by emphasizing how money earned yields time. By time, I mean periods of leisure, periods without the stress of worrying about bills, periods of freedom to do anything without the constraint of cost. American culture dictates working ourselves to the point of exhaustion, all so we can retire at a standard age. Why do we put this much stress on ourselves? Why do we feel so obligated to corporate bigwigs who couldn’t care less about the individual contributors? Why do we not value our own time, which in turn makes us more effective and productive?
I often consider the disparities between Americans, and one of the ways I view such disparities stems from distinctions of the working classes. Now, let me first explain that my interpretation of “working class” does not adhere to the customary, blue-collar view of a working American. Instead, I simply mean those who do whatever work they can find in order to support themselves financially. These workers may not reap the benefits of rewarding work and are often so unfortunate as to loathe their jobs.
What specifically prompted my consideration of this topic is a passage from Frank McCourt’s book, Teacher Man. McCourt details his experience as a public school teacher in New York City. He recalls his interactions with the parents of children who struggled to pass his courses. Many parents, upon McCourt’s urging for them to spend more time supervising homework and providing tutoring opportunities, reacted with claims of not having enough time because of the demands of their jobs. They argued that ensuring their children’s success in the classroom fell solely upon McCourt as a job responsibility.
Some argue of a lack of opportunity in their desired fields. For instance, those who aspire to act or sing may be hampered by lack of financial assistance for professional training. Many yearn for higher education opportunities but miss their chances when obligations such as work and family pull rank. Such obligations take away precious time that can be used to cultivate passions, formulate ideas, create art, and share feelings about the human condition. Is it elitist to conclude that only those who have attended college are capable of participating in such lifestyles?
My studies of the Romantic poets–Shelley, Keats, and Byron–led me to believe these writers luxuriated in ample amounts of time to do whatever they wanted. I do not suggest that these men shirked their responsibilities as citizens, but they certainly appeared to spend their days as they pleased, observing their natural surroundings and writing nature’s praises. How lucky writers such as these were to spend their days unconfined and free of menial labor. How fortunate are those who spend their days free from micromanaging.
Of course, those who have so much time that they don’t know how to spend it must be careful in their choices. They should be generous and thoughtful and willing to give to the greater good of community. I have found that monetary excesses do not always contribute to charitable means, but donating time does. Time is a gift.
*Source: Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opportunity_cost