Garbage Time

Garbage Time is an expression used in sports when the game has become a blowout and the outcome has effectively been decided. The coaches of one or both teams decide to replace their best players with substitutes. It is called garbage time since this period is frequently marked by a significant drop in the quality of play. The expression is believed to have been coined by broadcaster Chick Hearn during a basketball game.

Another documented use of the expression garbage time is time begrudgingly spent with another individual running errands or other activities in which there is no personal benefit or pleasure and the only benefit to the other individual is the pleasure of our company. Also listed in the Urban Dictionary, it refers to the wee hours of the morning during the last few minutes that the bar is open, when all the good looking patrons left or gone home already, leaving those who become attractive only because there is no other choice.

I recently learned of a different take on garbage time from Comedian Jerry Seinfeld. He took issue with the aspect of people needing to spend quality time with their kids and family. He stated “I don’t want quality time. I want the garbage time.” He meant the ordinary and the mundane. There is joy in ordinary. There’s satisfaction in the mundane.

We can fall into a trap where time spent needs to be special and worthy of a social media post. As a result, we have big expectations, which puts pressure to provide these moments and experiences. We tend to glamorize extraordinary events. But those events are only a part of our lives. Truth is, most of our days are ordinary. So called “garbage time” is when a moment is not planned and optimized. When a conversation is not fraught with meaning and purpose. When an interaction or event is not filled with expectation.

Garbage time should not be seen as trash time. It has value, real value. Untested players gain real game playing experience. We get caught off guard by simple yet profound happenings in the lost moments of life. Lifetime relationships have come from last minute chance encounters at a bar. In that twenty minute drive to soccer practice, we learn a lot about middle school drama our kids experience.

Quality time is the fruit, garbage time is the root. All those hours we spend together doing the ordinary, day-to-day things create the environment for the special moments to occur. Garbage time is when we learn a little more about each other. In my experience it creates stronger bonds and friendships; the desire to do more for someone. I have worked harder to help my boss achieve his goals, primarily because we had spent garbage time together. Garbage time is the best time, it isn’t burdened by the expectation to be special and memorable and perfect. Garbage time just is.

Often in our own lives when we spend more time anticipating future events of quality time rather than living in the present ordinary time. Waiting for our toddlers to get out of diapers, waiting to receive a coveted promotion, waiting to finally become empty nesters. We get consumed with our goals and aspirations. We stay busy trying to optimize every second of the day in our struggle for quality time. Relish the “garbage” time; little moments each day we’re often too busy to notice.

The church year has “Ordinary Time” in two seasons around Lent and Advent. It is considered ordinary time because it is not Christmas nor Easter which highlight the incarnation, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ, as well as the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Ordinary Time takes us through the life of Christ. Ordinary Time is for growth and maturation, a time of conversion. When it comes to our faith, no time is insignificant or unworthy of praise; there’s no such thing as garbage time. All time is holy, sanctified and blessed.

Thanks to Pete Seeger and The Byrds, the opening line of the third chapter of Ecclesiastes, (3:1), is well known by most music fans, “There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens.” It affirms that God determines the appropriate moment or “time” for all, declaring there is no such thing as garbage time in His plan. The added words to the song create a plea for peace and tolerance, which struck a nerve with the American record buying public as the Vietnam War escalated. Interesting note, since Ecclesiastes is traditionally ascribed to King Solomon in the 10th century BC, the Byrds’ 1965 recording of the song holds the distinction of being the number 1 hit with the oldest lyrics.

St. Paul made the most of his time, writing “Captivity Epistles” while in prison and suffering afflictions. In Ephesians, the great Pauline letter about the church, he stresses to make the most of our time being God’s instruments for making His plan of salvation known throughout the universe. Ephesians 5:15-16, “Watch carefully then how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise, making the most of the opportunity, because the days are evil.”

If God does not make garbage, then He does not make garbage time. If we’re fortunate enough to wake up in the morning, we get more time. It’s up to us to make the most of that time and honor it for the blessing it is.

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