Other Husband & Wife Articles

Do You Have a Minute?

By Kevin Aldrich

My favorite virtue is availability. It is also one I am not so good at.

You’ve probably never heard of this virtue but I bet you will recognize it at once.

The available person is accessible, that is, you can get to him. When you are with an available person, it seems like he has all the time in the world for you, even if the actual time is quite limited. The available person also has empathy for you. You feel he really cares about you.

In our relationship with an available person, there is often a sense of inequality, but not of inferiority. We seek out a certain person because we need something. We believe that person is able to help us. Think of your child wanting to talk to you; an employee going to his boss, or the father who sought out Christ because his daughter lay dying (Mark 5:21-43).

That person we go to, the one we see as being able to help us, seems “superior” for that reason. When this “superior” person has the virtue of being available, we discover an absolute treasure: this person actually sees value in us. We are treated with the dignity we know deep down we deserve but so seldom receive. We love that this important person listens to us, gives us his time, understands us. It is a treasure to be with an available person both because of who he is and how he regards us.

However, there is still more to the available person. Not only do we feel listened to and respected, but we are actually served. The person with the virtue of availability acts for our good. This final characteristic separates the available person from the con man. An opportunist may counterfeit most of the characteristics of availability, but he only works for his own self-interest.

Perhaps we don’t realize this, but we are or could be that “available” person to other people. As much as we need and revel in the affirmation of an available person, we ought to be the available person to those who treasure us: our spouse, our children, our students if we are teachers, our colleagues at work, and any other person who seeks our time and attention.

Yet, having said this, I don’t think availability comes naturally to men. We are task oriented whereas women are people oriented. We don’t talk much, whereas women need to speak. We like to “go to our caves,” whereas women like to relate. Feel free to disagree, guys.

Once I was doing some paperwork at home. My 4-year-old daughter came to see me. I don’t remember what led up to it, but suddenly she asked me, “Daddy, do you want me to go away and leave you alone?” I also don’t remember what I said. Hopefully it wasn’t, “Yes!” If it was, a curse is upon me.

So that we will not be cursed, here is a little examination of conscience as a practical tool to help us become a little more available.

Examination of Conscience

  • Am I around enough so that my wife and children can talk to me when they need to?
  • Do I give my wife and children the time they want?
  • Do I really care about the things my wife or kids tell me?
  • What would my wife or children say if one of their friends asked if I really valued them?
  • Do I respond to the needs of my wife and children by actually serving them?

Small Steps

What can you do if you are not as available as you would like? A book that can help us grow in availability or any other virtue or good quality is One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way by U.C.L.A. psychologist Robert Mauer. Rather than making drastic changes, Mauer’s small steps approach is based on asking small questions, thinking small thoughts, taking small actions, and solving small problems to eventually bring about big changes.

One practical way to be more available is to stop reading the paper, watching TV, or surfing the internet when someone asks for attention.

Another way is to regularly take a walk around the block with one of your kids.

Another is to ask yourself: “What is one small thing I can do today to be more available?”

Kevin Aldrich, a Los Angeles-based writer of novels, screenplays, TV pilots and self-help books, is married for 20 years and has seven children.