During the work week, every morning I drive from my home in Washington, Illinois, to my office in downtown Peoria. To get to my office, I have to use one of the three bridges that are available to cross the Illinois River.
The quickest way to my office is to take Route 24 to the McClugage Bridge. After I cross the bridge, I take the Adams Street exit and stay on Adams until it turns into Jefferson Street, which is a three-lane, one-way street that takes me directly to my office in Peoria.
In October of last year, an underground water pipe broke near the intersection of Jefferson and Hayward streets. Illinois American Water immediately sent a crew to repair the pipe. They cut out a large area of concrete, and then they dug down to the pipe and repaired it.
The area where the concrete was removed was blocked, and traffic on Jefferson was forced to merge from three lanes into one lane to get past where the repair occurred. The crew had the pipe repaired within a day. Then, for the next three weeks, no additional work was done to fill in the area that was dug out and to pour concrete to return the road to its original condition.
During that time, each day from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m., the traffic on Jefferson was so heavy that vehicles were backed up almost a mile from the area where the two lanes were blocked. Everyone had to merge into one lane until they passed the area, at which time they were able to again travel on three lanes. After three weeks of no activity, I was extremely frustrated that a crew had not come back to finish the job and open up the two closed lanes.
One morning when I passed the area, I wrote down the name of the side street where the pipe had been repaired. When I arrived at my office, I called the City of Peoria traffic engineering department and explained to the man I talked to that the two lanes had remained unnecessarily closed for the past few weeks. I asked him if someone from his department could contact the contractor and push them to get the street repaired.
He responded by saying, “That’s an Illinois American Water project. I’ll give you the number of the guy you can call to report the problem. You can ask him when they plan on completing the project.” My immediate thought was, “Isn’t that what your job is — to make sure that the streets in the City of Peoria are quickly repaired so people who are driving are not unnecessarily inconvenienced by delays?”
Even though I was irritated that the guy was too lazy to do his job, I kept my mouth shut. I figured that if I complained to him that he should be the one to make the phone call, he would ignore my request and wouldn’t bother to get around to making the call.
After I finished my conversation with him, I dialed the number that he had given to me. No one answered the phone. Instead, there was a voicemail message that requested that I leave a message. I provided my name, phone number, and a detailed message as to why I was calling. I asked for a return phone call to let me know when the project would be completed. Of course, I never heard back from anyone.
Two weeks later, after putting up with the continued heavy traffic and delays, I was so irritated that I looked up the name and phone number of the District 1 Peoria City Council member. District 1 includes the area of Jefferson where the street was torn up. The council member for that district is Denise Moore. I had never met or talked to Ms. Moore.
I called the phone number that was listed on the City of Peoria website and Ms. Moore answered the phone on the third ring. She was in the middle of something, but she made time to talk to me. I explained what was going on and what had happened when I called the City of Peoria. Her immediate response was, “Why did he tell you to call Illinois American Water? He should’ve done that himself.” I told her that I thought the same thing, but I made the phone call anyway and I did not receive any response from the water company.
Ms. Moore promised that she would immediately look into the matter and get it taken care of. The following week, a crew of five men showed up and filled the trench where the pipe had been repaired. They worked on the site for a few days and then the following week, they poured concrete on Jefferson and laid blacktop on the side street.
After giving the concrete several days to cure, the two lanes were reopened for traffic. To her credit, Ms. Moore did what she told me she was going to do and got the job DONE. According to my calculation, the project took more than seven weeks to complete, when it should have been done in two weeks.
A few weeks ago, while I was in the men’s locker room of the gym where I work out, I noticed that one of the two soap dispensers that are available was out of soap. Later, while I was working out, I saw the housekeeping lady who is there almost every day. I usually say hi to her and sometimes exchange small talk, but this time I mentioned to her that the soap dispenser was out of soap.
She responded by saying that she would take care of it. She didn’t get the job done that day, which didn’t surprise me. I already knew that she was lazy because I had observed her frequently stop to visit with other people, and she would often stretch the time that it would take to complete a task.
Last week, I noticed that the dispenser was still out of soap. Later, when I saw the housekeeping lady piddling around with a menial task, I approached her and said, “Did you forget about the soap dispenser?” She looked at me as though she didn’t know what I was talking about. I then said, “Do you remember when you told me that you were going to put soap in the soap dispenser in the men’s locker room?” She answered, “Oh! They didn’t take care of that?” I replied, “They probably don’t know anything about it. You’re the only one who knows because I’m the one who told you about it.”
She immediately began reciting a litany of excuses. I interrupted her and said, “Do you have access to the soap?” She said, “Yes, I can get the soap.” “So can you go do the job right now?” I asked. She answered, “I cannot do it now, but I’ll make sure to get it done tonight.” I haven’t been back since then, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she did not get around to replacing the soap.
So why am I telling you all this? Because it irritates me to no end that 80 percent of the people I come into contact with can’t seem to get anything done. They always have a long list of excuses to justify their laziness. And they always do everything in their power to explain how busy they are.
If any one of those people followed a truly productive person around all day, by the end of the day, they would be on the ground clutching their chests and complaining about how exhausted they were. I consider myself to be an expert on this topic because, over the years, the primary fault that I have struggled to conquer is laziness. If I gave you a dollar for every time I’ve confessed laziness, you would be wealthy.
Why do I work so hard to quickly get things done? One reason is because I have this little video that plays in my mind that shows me what may happen the moment that I meet God. I see Him saying, “What did you get DONE for Me and My Kingdom while you were living on Earth? With all the minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years that I gave you, what did you get DONE? How much praying did you get DONE? How many corporal and spiritual works of mercy did you get DONE?” Then the video in my mind gets worse. God then shows me the millions of things I could have gotten DONE for Him but didn’t.
When the infant Jesus was lying in the manger shivering from the cold, He knew that He was on Earth for one primary reason — to die on the cross so the gates of Heaven would be opened for those of us who want to enter into His Kingdom. He could have procrastinated and put off being born, but he kept to His Father’s schedule and despite all the pain and suffering He knew he was going to endure, he got the job DONE.
What did you get DONE last year? What did you get DONE last month? I’m not talking about all the worldly things that you did. I’m talking about the things you got DONE that helped you to know, love, and serve God in a more meaningful way.
After challenging the housekeeping lady to get the soap dispenser job DONE, I went home and told Georgette about my experience. I then told her about how I wanted to slap the lady upside the head for being so lazy and making excuses — like Moe used to do to Curly in The Three Stooges. By then, I had worked myself up and said to Georgette, “Why is it that nobody can get anything DONE? It seems as though a third of my time is spent bullying people to do their jobs and get things DONE.”
In her typical way of dealing with me, she said, “Honey, maybe we should check your blood pressure. It seems as though it may be a little high right now. Are you okay? Do you need to lie down?” Of course, she knew that her comments would get me more worked up, while at the same time letting me know that I shouldn’t be so wound up about such a small matter.
I’ll tell you how I really feel about this issue of getting things DONE. I have to fight with myself every day to create urgency and set deadlines for tasks that I know need to get DONE. It actually benefits me when I push others to commit to getting things DONE by creating for them a sense of urgency and a deadline for completion. Yes, I may have to bully some people to force them to get things DONE, but I don’t apologize for my behavior. I don’t feel guilty about pushing people to do what they should be doing on their own. In fact, I consider it a work of mercy.
Do you want to know one of the SECRETS to getting into Heaven? The secret is … DONE — what you choose to get DONE for God, how much you get DONE for God, and how fast you get it DONE for God. Like the saints, we need to create urgency and deadlines, so we can get more things DONE for God.
We’ve just started a new year. What are you going to get DONE this year to become a more devout Catholic, to perform frequent works of mercy, to develop a better relationship with God, and to help others develop a better relationship with God?