Friday, April 1, 2016
When I was in high school, unless I could come up with some excuse not to, I went home for lunch with my father. His work was just a block from the school and our home was a couple miles away on the south side of town. It wasn't my favorite time of the day. My dad drove slow.
Not only did he drive every day like a Sunday driver, he was also slow about getting me back to school. I would wait impatiently as he finished his lunch or changed his clothes or did something to delay our return.
In retrospect, knowing the crowd I hung out with in high school, he may have been trying to keep me out of circulation for as long as possible. We didn't need a lot of time, a lunch hour would do, nor a reasonable place, to get into trouble. It could happen just about anytime or anywhere.
Although those noon hours were painful experiences of impatience, they probably also taught me the cultivation of patience. There was no escape. I was forced to take a deep breath, count the stop lights and stop signs, and bear it.
I'm thinking about patience this morning. The primary reason is an article in Sojourners magazine by Tobias Winright. Because of a traumatic brain injury, Tobias was forced to change his lifestyle and habits. There were many things he couldn't do. It took three and a half years to heal and as he says, "I resisted having to be patient, but it was as a patient - as blindsided, vulnerable and unprepared as I felt - that I was forced to learn to practice patience."
We live in an instant everything society. My mornings often start with Instant Oatmeal and at least on Mondays, will end with "fast food". Although I'm personally something of a Luddite, most everyone can do everything from anyplace, immediately, with their cell phone.
I'm still pondering what has happened. Several years ago, when I sent a postcard home from India, I'd arrive back home before the postcard. Heaven forbid you'd try a phone call. Even local calls were impossible. Now I Skype friends in India with ease, instantly, as if we were in adjoining rooms. And if the picture freezes or the sound is not too good, I grow impatient.
Is instant gratification a passing fad or the face of the future? Has a faster pace of life offered greater satisfaction or delivered more stresses and deeper impatience?
I'm convinced that patience is a virtue. Winright quotes Tertullian, an early church father, "patience is God's nature," and "the mother of mercy." And Gandhi includes patience as a hallmark of character. "There is no character where there is no patience and truth and gentleness and humility." And it's instructive as to the nature of patience that Gandhi includes it with those other characteristics.
Still, I'm impatient about a lot of things. Let me mention the top 10 ways.
1. Long seasons of Presidential politics, especially as they get more negative and divisive.
2. Racism and sexism and all the other "isms" that devalue the human being.
3. A dysfunctional Congress, half of whom still deny human caused climate change.
4. Perpetual and pervasive warfare when there are tried and tested alternatives.
5. The continuing expansion of the gap between wealth and poverty, the denial and ignorance of the plight of the poor, and the refusal to remove structural and economic violence that denies some the basics of livelihood.
6. Telephone answering machines that keep telling me I'm a valued customer as I wait endlessly for any semblance of a human being on the other end.
7. Television commercials that repeat and repeat and repeat, all in the space of an hour. And you don't understand what they're all about in the first place. And you begin to realize the program is not what's important; it's the profits.
9. Long waits in doctor's offices where my mental health deteriorates after twenty minutes. And retail establishments where the customer comes second, or third, or maybe doesn't register at all.
10. Long seasons of Presidential politics!
Honestly, I'll work hard to cultivate more patience, especially with those social issues important to me. Only because impatience tends to cast some visible or invisible "other" into the role of the demonic. And agreed, Impatience is not God's nature, nor the mother of mercy.