"States are now fully open!" the news blared this week. "Offices are now asking workers to come back. Travelers are rushing to travel. Restaurants are overbooked.”
Meanwhile, other reports blasted: "Airlines are having to cancel hundreds of flights due to a pilot shortage. Retail workers are quitting at record numbers, leaving shoppers angry and unattended. Police departments are unable to fill job vacancies despite a new pandemic of gun violence. Summer getaways are overbooked due to overwhelming demand."
Wow. Everywhere you turn lately, it seems like people are ready to get things back to "normal." Everything is open or opening, and people are feeling impatient. They want to get going. I get it. They want to get back to traveling. They want to get whatever it is that they want, and they want to get it now.
Let's take a beat.
Waiting is what's called for right now. Patience is required (just listen to my conversation with Sara Nelson, president of the Flight Attendants Association, below). The summer of rushing back to normal is turning into the summer of slow down and wait.
Now, if I’m being honest, I haven't always been good at waiting, nor was patience one of my best qualities. I didn’t grow up with people who valued waiting. They didn’t model it for me. They left if you weren’t on time. They moved on without you if you didn’t get the lesson or the drill. I grew up with people who were in a hurry and said "I’m in a rush," and that was that.
I wouldn’t say that I even gave the concept of waiting that much thought until recently. But when I finally did, it altered my whole wide world. It happened quite out of the blue, actually. I was sitting next to someone reading, and I distinctly remember trying to read as fast as I could to keep up with them. That's when they turned to me and said, "Hey, I’m not in a rush. It’s okay. There's time. I’ll wait until you finish. No problem."
In that moment, something in me shifted. I could feel my cortisol levels drop. My breathing slowed. My anxiety dissolved. I realized the power of waiting, and I’ve valued it deeply since then. And honestly, I’ve gotten better at it.
Now that doesn’t mean I like waiting in a long line, and I certainly don’t love waiting for hours for my food to come when I'm dining in a restaurant (especially if I’m hangry). But I’ve come to value the art of waiting and its genuine impact on oneself and others.
I've seen and felt firsthand the impact when someone waits for you to catch up. When someone waits for you to learn how to work the TV remote. When someone waits for you to learn something new. When someone waits for you to go somewhere, or waits for you to become the someone you long you be.
So if waiting isn’t your thing, challenge yourself to get better at it this summer. Start by trying to be patient with yourself. That’s right. Instead of yelling at someone on the TV, or in a car, or on a plane, start with you. Are you exactly where you want to be? Does berating yourself or rushing yourself help you get there? Or if you are where you want to be, did it take you time to get there? Was your road made better when someone yelled at you, left you, cut you off, or gave up on you? Think about it.
Now, let’s think about a time when someone let you go in front of them in a line. How did that make you feel? Think about a time when someone sat with you at a doctor's appointment without rushing you. Think about that person who waited in traffic to pick you up and then greeted you with a smile. It matters, doesn’t it? It makes a difference, right?
Also, let’s take a moment to pause and think about the people who are truly waiting for something important or life-changing. Think about the people in Miami who are anxiously waiting to find out about their missing loved ones in that devastating apartment building collapse. Think about the people anxiously waiting for a scary medical diagnosis. Every time you feel something testing your patience, think about all those who are sitting on the edge of their seats waiting for life-altering news.
So this summer, dust off your waiting skills. Think of waiting as a “superpower" instead of as a waste of time. When you stand in a TSA line at the airport and it requires waiting, watch what happens in your body. Observe yourself. When you are in line at Starbucks tapping your foot, pay attention to what’s going through your mind. When you are dealing with someone in customer service, notice what you feel. What does it bring up for you? If you find yourself back in the office, or back battling traffic, and things aren't going the way you want, think about all we've gone through. Cut yourself and others some slack.
Observe. Notice. Take note. Be mindful. The reality is that we are all coming out of a long, long winter, so to speak. We are all rejoining a new society of sorts. New rules. New procedures. New expectations. Everyone is opening their eyes to a new reality. It's one that really can’t be rushed, even though everyone wants to rush back.
So get ready to get good at waiting. Get ready to value waiting. Be open to the benefits of it, because this summer of raring to go is going to teach all of us a thing or two about the value of waiting.
PRAYER OF THE WEEK
Dear God, help me pace myself. Help me pause and appreciate the now. Rather than racing through life or rushing toward what's next, allow me to embrace the power of patience. Amen.
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