My home in Winona, Minnesota was a half block from the train tracks. Sandwiched between the Mississippi River to the east and bluffs to the west, made for a long and narrow small city. Trains ran frequently, but during the fall and spring they seemed to triple in number. My waterbed would shake with each train rolling through. Sometimes, it felt like I was being rocked to sleep.
One of the things I learned about living in Winona, was that I had to add extra time to every place I was going. The tracks ran right through the middle of the length of the town. I never knew when I might get stopped by a train for ten or fifteen minutes, on the way to where I needed to be.
A few years ago, leadership gurus started using the term margin, for creating time for the unexpected. Rather than completely schedule a day, they stressed the importance of leaving space on either side of an appointment or meeting. That space would give time for the conversation which is vital and otherwise would have been missed. I’ve learned that it is in the good-by’s that people open up about a concern or a care. When the rest of a group has left, the lingering person shares an ache in their heart.
I wish I could say that I always took time to pause, to hear the need, to create space to listen. But there are days when I have been overly scheduled.
The apostle Paul wrote, “Encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” I Thessalonians 5:14
Making room in our days to listen is an offering of love. Margin gives us the grace to pause, to reflect and to hear. It provides time for a tender moment, sharing of a burden and giving a word of encouragement. For, haven’t we all, at some point, needed a person to do that for us?