Parish of St Matthew the Apostle,
Douglas, Isle of Man
The other day I was in the Co-op and there were no eggs on the shelves, so I asked the young man at the till whether they had sold out. He said, “I’ll have a look in the stores” and disappeared.
A lady joined the queue and said irritably, “Where is the till attendant? I want a ride home and my friend is waiting. They should have more people on the tills.” Then, with a face resembling a salt cracker, she announced, “We should not have to wait.”
“Why not?” I asked, “Life is all about waiting isn’t it? We wait to be born; to walk and talk; to go to school; to get exam results; then we wait to leave school and find a job; a suitable husband or wife and family; after that we wait for retirement and eventually and inevitably for death!”
At this stage the young man returned, handed me half a dozen eggs for which I said, “Thank you”, and turning again to the lady, continuing “and this young man is waiting for the end of his shift!”
The lady looked at me with considerable hostility, so I continued, “It is not whether or not we wait that matters but what we do while we are waiting. Do we show kindness and consideration for those who are doing their work or are waiting with us? Do we bother to think why there is a delay and whether the delay is justified? Of course, if we see something that is quite obviously wrong we should not just let it pass without trying to make things better, in order to seem ‘nice’ and ‘long suffering’, but we must know why we are complaining.” I smiled and let her go before me in the queue and she thanked me.
Later, thinking about the incident, I wondered how important patience is and how often do we practice it? Do we show patience in working for excellence in the things we undertake or are we satisfied with “it’ll do”? Or do we stamp our feet saying, “I want it and I want it NOW! I am the most important person so the things I want should be provided by someone else when I want them. I will not wait.”
As Christians, our lives should be noticeably different from those of people who do not follow the teachings of Jesus. Knowing Jesus changes lives and behaviour.
Maybe we should cultivate patience and say, for example, “I like and want that. Now if I work and/or save I could have it” and feel proud of my achievement instead of expecting immediate gratification – always remembering that not everything is about ME and what I want. It was worth waiting for. Or if I am just waiting along with others I could perhaps be pleasant and talk to them, so making a friend or two who are real people and not just an “I like” notice on a machine.
If you want your waiting in life to be productive it would be a good idea to get to know and be guided by Patience. You might find she becomes a good friend with lots of wonderful presents to share with you. Keep working and learning.