The Bridges family of Kings Mountain, N.C., visits us between Christmas and New Year’s. It’s a tradition all of us enjoy, and one that counters the usual post-Christmas downer.
Moms and the younger ones go shopping. Dads and older offspring take a day-long excursion within an hour or two of Macon, Ga.
This year I took my friend John and his two collegians, Thomas (UNC senior) and Elizabeth (Gardner-Webb freshman) to Plains. The students had never been to the little town that birthed a U.S. president.
They particularly enjoyed the restored Carter family farm in the Archery community. En route we stopped at the National POW Museum in Andersonville, the small airport where Charles Lindbergh made his first solo flight, the Habitat for Humanity birthplace and Americus’ old Windsor Hotel.
It is amazing how much significant history can be found within rural Sumter, County, Ga.
One highlight of the day was our lunchtime visit to Monroe’s Hot Dogs and Billiards in downtown Americus between the beautifully restored Rylander Theatre and the Habitat headquarters.
Entering the restaurant, we could sense its popularity immediately. About 30 people were ahead of us in line.
Patience is not my top virtue. But we were in no hurry and I wanted my friends to enjoy the local flavor.
To my delight, however, patience was not required. Within 10 minutes of arrival, we had been through the line and our food was before us.
The efficiency and overall customer service were rare and appreciated.
Here’s how they did it. Two lines with competent order takers. Limited menu with the food prepared the moment the order is spoken.
One size fries and drinks. Low, rounded prices like my choice: a combo dog with slaw and chili for one dollar. And a sign that should be required at the sales counters of all businesses: “If you are talking on a cell phone we will not take your order.”
My friend John lamented however that he spent only $13 to overfeed his threesome and then $24 for the two T-shirts the students wanted with the wonderful Monroe’s slogan: “Best dog ever bitten by man.”
However, my appreciation for efficiency goes beyond getting good hot dogs quickly. Overall time management is a good discipline, even a matter of stewardship.
For some of us (me, me, me) the challenge is learning to slow down and not looking at the next to-do list so quickly. But using time well comes from seeing each hour and every day as a sacred gift.
The discipline of time requires careful attention to planning. What we schedule to do and schedule not to do are important.
Multi-tasking is not always the best approach, but it is hard not to try. In an effort at being a good steward of time and budget, I often pack my travels so full that I return exhausted. A little slower pace would allow for more energy upon return, especially when a writing deadline awaits.
Of course, there is not one approach to using time most wisely that fits every person in every situation. It tends to be an individualized approach.
But one truth is undeniable. How we spend our time is one of the clearest indicators of what is really important to us. It reflects our true values, whether we admit to them or not.
(I wonder if it would be good use of my time to make a two-hour round-trip drive for lunch today? The dogs are calling.)

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