Marginal minutes

When you think of it, in our lives there are many little things that happen practically as an afterthought that often stay with us and have an impact on our lives. It might be what someone says to us or an act of kindness or a perhaps a few “thinking of you” words left on a scrap of paper tucked away to find later.

I had a young overnight guest last fall who left me notes like that. I found one just recently, tucked in a bowl I rarely use. “You are awesome” it read. The words on a simple piece of scrap paper made me smile, just as she probably hoped would happen.

Sometimes I remember brief tips passed along to me by someone else. I was in a crowd of folks years ago when the speaker admonished all of us to “use your marginal minutes.” It’s funny how I remember that even now. Sometimes I even succeed at putting that advice into practice.

It’s amazing how much can be accomplished in those marginal minutes when you wait for something or when it’s not quite time to leave yet or there’s something in the oven that is almost done but needs to be watched closely until it is. One good time-filler, marginal-minute task is to clean the kitchen sink. Or sweep the kitchen floor. And if I do that just before I leave the house then it’s a little nicer when I come home.

Or clean a mirror or straighten the kitchen countertops or the living room coffee table. Interesting, isn’t it, how many of those little jobs fill the marginal minutes? Most of them don’t take much time, either. In fact, I read recently that you should never put off doing something that takes five minutes or less. After a while, those little things just become annoying, so why not just take care of it so it doesn’t bug you anymore?

You know, it doesn’t have to be only household chores that we choose to fill those marginal minutes. How about communicating with a friend? An email note could hardly be quicker or easier, a wonderful way to check in with someone on the other side of town or the other side of the country. A brief text is easy, too, and then there’s always the option of a phone call. It does take a little time, but a handwritten missive lets someone know you’re thinking of them via something that can be held in the hand and read again and again.

It’s all in how we use-or waste-those marginal minutes.