Standing in line, waiting for the doctor, and sitting in traffic do not sound like presents, but if we look closely at them we can see the gifts that waiting gives to us.
The Gift of Downtime
We complain that we have no downtime, but every time we wait in a line is an opportunity to slow down for a little while, to take a breather. No one is expecting anything from you at the moment. Often though, we are not relaxed in line. We complain, look at our watch, and think nasty thoughts about the people ahead of us in line. We have no control over how fast the line will move or traffic will go.
The great thing is, we do control our attitude. We can make waiting a time of rest or a waste of time just by what we concentrate on.
Anna C. Brackett wrote about waiting in her book The Technique of Rest in 1892. “When you are waiting for a train, don’t keep perpetually looking to see if it is coming. The time of its arrival is the business of the conductor, not yours. It will not come any sooner for all your nervous glances and your impatient pacing, and you will save strength if you will keep quiet. After we discover that the people who sit still on a long railroad journey reach that journey’s end at precisely the same time as those who “fuss” continually, we have a valuable piece of information which we should not fail to put to practical use.”
In line you can daydream. Visualize your goals. Picture a vacation. Let your mind wander. Pray. Or just breathe awhile.
The Gift of Patience
In our fast-paced society we all need a little practice in patience. Everyone is in such a hurry and no one is willing to wait for anything. Fast food, ATMs, and the microwave provide things faster than ever and we don’t even want to wait for them.
One definition of patience is: Accepting a difficult situation without giving a deadline to remove it. If we practice patience in little things like being on hold, maybe we can be more patient waiting for our dreams to fall into place.
In order to be more patient in waiting times, it helps to leave early. It’s easier to wait if you are not going to be late. Leaving ten minutes early for everything gives you the extra time in case something comes up. And something always comes up.
“No greater thing is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig, I answer you that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen.” –Epictetus
The Gift of the Present Moment
The grocery store line was huge right before dinner. People all around me were complaining about not having time for this and I was starting to get annoyed. My ten-year-old son was with me. He started talking and we had a whole conversation where I was able to concentrate solely on him. I had nothing else to do since I was waiting in a line. I felt so connected to my son at that moment, I was almost sorry when we got to the checkout counter.
Sometimes we can be in such a hurry to get where we want to be, that we forget how wonderful here is. Next time you are waiting, take a look around. There is always something interesting to look at or discover—paintings, fascinating people, things to read, or animals.
With kids, it seems I am waiting for hours a day. Children dawdle because they are so connected to the world around them. As adults in a hurry, we often miss what they see. If we slow down we can get that childlike spark back. Waiting is the perfect time to notice life.
“Life is a succession of moments. To live each one is to succeed.” –Coreta Kent
The Gift of Compassion and Humility
In waiting we are always dealing with other people. What we think of those whom we are waiting behind is rarely compassionate. We need to change our attitude. You know the one—what we have to do is more important than what anyone else has to do. Road rage is an example —driving like a maniac, cutting people off, risking other drivers because where we are going is more “important” then where someone else is going. Being perpetually in a hurry and annoyed at being kept waiting is a sign that we are doing more than we need to. That’s the time to start cutting things out of our to-do list. I love people watching.
Standing in line at the bank I see a young woman with her three-year-old as she tries desperately to hold on to everything. I ask if I can hold something and she thankfully gives me her bag. When you look around you with compassion you are in a position to help others. Plus, you will feel great afterwards and the wait won’t seem as long.
You also meet captivating people while waiting. Talking with others keeps you both from being fed up and you never know what you will learn. I got some fantastic Christmas gift ideas yesterday at the grocery store from the lady next to me.
“Humility is attentive patience.” –Simone Weil
It is in the small moments of life that we show who we are. How do you want to wait?
1. Decide from now on when you have to wait you will be in control of your attitude.
2. Be patient with yourself when you find yourself acting out of impatience.
3. Change your thinking the minute you start feeling impatient.
4. Be patient with those around you and look for ways to help others.
5. Drive the speed limit and sing in the car when you get stuck in traffic.
6. Leave ten minutes early for everything.