I recently attended the memorial service for a man who, by everyone’s account, had lived an incredibly full and blessed life of 77 years. The reverend eulogizing this fine man described his incredible gift of woodworking—of creating—and his generosity with that gift. The reverend mentioned his military service, his beekeeping, and the loving family of which he was the patriarch. The reverend listed the distinguishing aspects of his character—those qualities by which he’d be remembered by friends and family alike. Among that list was this statement:
“He was honest, punctual, and direct.”
Honesty and directness are the type of qualities I’d expect to hear listed in such a memorial, as they’re the kind of deep-rooted values that drive our major life decisions, the kind of values we’d all hope would be remarked upon when we pass.
The mention of punctuality didn’t seem to fit the category of the other two. And so, over the next few days, I asked myself two questions: First, How considerate of time must a man have to be in order for his punctuality to be remarked upon at his passing? Second, why does punctuality matter, particularly for the man trying to understand his identity?
The answers to these two questions sort of merged together in my mind into one response. For the root of this answer, I turned to an unexpected source: a corny, silly, and not particularly well-remembered movie, Blast from the Past. Admittedly, it’s not the place I’d normally expect to find the answer to any meaningful question, but there my memory leads me.
“Manners are a way of showing other people we care about them.”
-Adam (Brendan Fraser)
I think we can agree that this aphorism is intuitively true. Next, we can also agree that punctuality is part of manners. The transitive property then tells us that punctuality is a way of showing other people we care about them.
A punctual man is telling others through his timeliness that he cares about them, that he respects their time and their obligations enough to be where he said he’d be when he said he’d be there. Such a man merits the utmost respect—the kind of respect he’s showing others by being on time, all the time.
A punctual man also understands what tardiness implies about his own identity. He recognizes what a consistently late man is. A consistently late man isn’t malicious, nor is he odious. But he just isn’t aware. He isn’t foresighted. He’s a bit selfish. He’s somewhat careless.
So punctuality provides us with two opportunities:
One, to show that we—as real men—care about others.
Two, to show that we understand who we are and who we want to be.
From “Finding Manhood,” by David.