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January 2006 Character Quality -- Punctuality
The following editorial article was written by Gloria Cooper for publication in The Paris News --
"So you want to ride with the Pony Express, do you?" William Russell, founder of the famous mail
service was interviewing a young man in his early twenties. "Of course there are a lot of things
that you need to learn, but most importantly, get your mail through on time, at all costs. This is
what keeps the Pony Express going." This was the motto of the new organization -- punctuality.
At the beginning it took ten days for the riders to go from Missouri to California, during a time
where it normally took months for communication to travel from east to west. As Russell built a
cadre of speedy and efficient riders, the station masters, mail sorters, and riders cut the time to
eight days because each man did his part to make every transfer smooth and to get every piece
of mail to its destination. For a single transfer, the operation required that the station master get
ready long before the incoming rider arrived, with a fresh horse, saddled, warmed up, and
ready. If a new rider was to take over, he too had to be ready. The time clock at each station
allowed two minutes for the transfer, and this occurred every ten to twenty-five miles. When
Abraham Lincoln delivered his first Inaugural Address, the Pony Express riders got the news to
California residents in a record time of seven days, sixteen hours.

The Pony Express only lasted for eighteen months as the new telegraph lines made it obsolete,
but its legend lives on as we remember that the dedication of these young men helped fulfill a
need during our country's rapid expansion.

Punctuality is showing high esteem for other people and their time. These riders learned five
important facts to get the mail in on time: begin early, keep track of the time, prioritize your
duties, respect other's time, and finish on time. When you are required to be somewhere, do not
only be present; be ready. Know what you should be doing at each 'station' in your day.  
Organize at the beginning of the day what needs to be done, prepare a realistic schedule, and
strive to meet it. Winston Churchill said, "I do think unpunctuality is a vile habit, and all my life I
have tried to break myself of it."

Our schedule affects other people, and we can either honor them by respecting their time, or
dishonor them by being tardy and careless. When others have to wait for us, we are causing
them to waste time, which could greatly hinder their personal schedule later. Those who are kept
waiting seem more inclined to count the faults of those who put them in that situation.

Punctuality is important because it is so pertinent to every area of life. If we exercise it, we
promote team efficiency and productivity -- not to mention overall morale. When we do things in
a timely manner throughout the day, there will not be a need to cram before the day is over,
which will eliminate much stress and frustration.

Being late is certainly not a new "fad" and it can be a very difficult thing for anyone to overcome.
Therefore, we must show patience to those who are tardy, being ready to forgive them, and
realizing all the times we have been late and others have forgiven us. Think creatively and find
different ways to do a task more time-efficiently. Take initiative for a project, including taking
responsibility to ensure that it is completed on time. Become a leader in this area and you will
find that many will look to you for guidance. God has given us time as a gift; let us be
responsible and use it wisely.
Portions of this article have been adapted from Character First! materials.  For more information about the
Character First! program and resources contact:  Character Training Institute, 520 W. Main Street, Oklahoma
City, OK  73102,  (405) 815-0001. Visit the Character Council of Red River Valley at
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