A Little Patience


…an ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay…


I have no patience. I want to do everything and I want to do it now. That would be fine, if the entire world were mine. But I am not here alone, and doing things usually involves or affects other people. And so I get annoyed. I get restless. I get impatient.

A sizable portion of my time in Africa was spent waiting. I waited for the guide to tell us what the plan was. I waited for the bus to come. I waited for the rain to end. I waited for the students to saunter into class. I waited for people to answer my questions. I waited for the continent to move. It didn’t budge. Nor did it give a damn.

But within all those wasted, waiting minutes, lie so many precious moments. When have I ever discussed the concept of marriage with a shopkeeper? When do I sit down to share a fruit with strangers? When do I lie down to look for animal shapes in the clouds? When do I take time to learn how to cook something I will never make again? Above all, when do I see – really see – the person in front of me?

I now ask people how they are, before I ask them how much something costs. I’ve gotten some surprised reactions. The woman at the fruit and vegetable store seemed suspicious of my interest. The guy I asked for directions thought I was flirting with him. People are confused. Because they have gotten used to being invisible to others. How many people ask you how you are, and show interest in the answer?

I am still possessive about my time. I like to spend it my own way. I know that one day it will all be finished and try as I may, I won’t get a refill. And I like to think I am important.

I am not.

In fact, I am extraordinarily insignificant. Which is why I no longer think it is a criminal offense to sleep late. Or not to have a to-do list.

I am learning that sometimes, wasting time is the best way to use it. It is experiencing. If I really really live – smell, taste, see, hear and feel the world, am I not doing everything?


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