Tuesday, July 12

waiting well

You can tell a lot about a person by how they wait.

As I strolled into the Secretary of State office last week, that's what I was thinking.  The room was packed to capacity; over fifty people crammed into folding chairs waiting for a chance to fill out paperwork.  I was number 51.  They were on number one.  It was going to be a long, hot wait.

Most people were playing with their phones, the noise level vacillating between a quiet chatter and a loud buzz.  Some women talked complained with each other.  Most men sat in stoic silence.  A woman with an antsy toddler played eye-spy and cradled a newborn with one arm, while filling out paperwork with another.  A 10-year-old boy offered me his chair, seeing that I had none.

I took it all in; I thought it said a lot about our culture that no one could wait contentedly.  And then I realized that I wasn't, either.

In fact, I'd walked into a room full of real stories with a book in my bag.  I was ready, excited even, to jump into a fictional life when real life was happening right in front of my eyes.  So I took a breath, closed my book, and jumped.
In the next 2 hours and 45 minutes, I found more stories than I ever imagined I would.

The older woman next to me spoke nothing but Italian, and we talked with the help of her daughter.  Language barriers are no match for hand motions and laughter.

The couple near the front had just gotten married.  She rested her head in the crook of his shoulder and in a moment, they seemed like one person.  They carried the hopeful rhythm of people who were figuring out how to share a name and a life together.

The mother playing eye-spy had no one to watch her kids that day, and as she juggled taking caring of them and fighting off their boredom- I admired her bravery and lightheartedness.  When I told her she deserved some kind of cape, her smile came with the bright fervency of someone who goes unappreciated too often.

When I left, still laughing and half-speaking Italian, I was hit with the realization that it matters how we wait.  Because we're always waiting for something, aren't we?

I ache with impatience for red lights to melt into green, high school to turn into college, college to turn into who-knows-what.  I fidget in line, at the store, in the car, filling out paperwork, pumping gas, as if these little in-between transition moments prick like mosquitoes on my skin.  In my sandpaper-motion-whirlwind I often overlook the "little" moments while waiting for something big to happen.  I miss out on good things, beautiful stories right in front of me and simply brush them off in search of something better.

And yet-
life happens in the waiting.

And so often-
I miss it.

I'm so enraptured with waiting for life to begin and big things to happen, that I push past some of the best seasons of my life.  Just one more year until I graduate.  Just two more weeks until my job starts.  Just a week, just a day, just an hour.

The very moments that I rush on past are the same things I should slow down to witness.  Rich moments of human connection and opportunity blossom right in front of me and I want to catch them.  I want to see them.  I want to open my hands to them.  

I don't want to put time in a box and wait for life to begin, when life has already begun.  It's going on all around me, second by second, and I'm missing out on the most beautiful part.  I'm missing out on everything...because friends, there are no little moments or insignificant seasons.  Each comes with its own beauty and responsibility to enjoy it, to live in it, to make the most of it. 

I think it matters how we wait.
And I think it's time I started to learn to wait well.

Here, now.  The coming and the going and the in between waiting.
It's life and it's mine and it's yours, too.
And I don't want to miss it.

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