“Without patience, we will learn less in life. We will see less. We will feel less. We will hear less. Ironically, rush and more usually mean less.”
— St. Teresa of Calcutta
A few weeks ago while stressing out about a cavalcade of situations in my life that were taking too long to work out — like my career goals, family squabbles, my love life or current lack thereof, the shop taking too long to fix my car, and the list goes on — I ran into a fascinating man who made me see things a little differently.
He was a security guard patrolling the pool area where I was lounging and even though I was relaxing and he was working, he seemed to be a lot calmer than I was.
The 40-something eternally optimistic guard looked particularly young and fit for his age, especially considering his condition. He was a kidney transplant recipient who received a kidney from his mother a few decades ago. But after a good run with that donation of devotion, the kidney bit the dust, and left him hurting for a new one.
Now I realize there are lots of people in need of transplants; God bless them all and my prayers are with them to find a suitable donor. But what was particularly remarkable about this man was his amazing contentment and patience, not to mention his resolve to be a man of principle even in the face of possible death and a whole lot of discomfort.
He described how he spent about five hours a day on a dialysis system inside his house. He tries to do this at night while he’s sleeping, but the process being an uncomfortable one often wakes him and makes getting real sleep a bit of a luxury for him.
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But in spite of his pain, discomfort and need, when I asked him if there wasn’t another family member who was a match for him, he responded more nobly than one could ever imagine: “Yeah my brother is a match, but he’s got a daughter and a wife that depend on him, and if anything ever happened to his remaining kidney they might lose him, and I don’t want to risk that. So I can wait.”
Wow, here I was impatiently worrying about a lot of real but relatively trivial concerns that I impatiently wanted to be solved now. And here was this kind and gentle man with a life-threatening illness who was willing to wait out of love for his family.
His selflessness and his thoughtfulness for his brother and his family took me back. But what really got me thinking was his patience — the patience to live his life waiting.
Being a relatively ambitious person, I have always found patience a difficult thing to muster. My mother on the other hand always seemed to have an endless supply of it, and sometimes I thought, too much.
But as we celebrate the canonization of another mother, Mother Teresa, it gives pause for a little thought about patience. St. Teresa of Calcutta was someone steeped in patience as she did what she had to do day after day, year after year, decade after decade despite the realization that change would come slow if ever to the plight of the poor and downtrodden she helped in India and around the world.
For all of us there are plenty of situations that we can pray for patience with. With our jobs or lack of a job, that we may take the time we need to learn and grow into our careers and the prosperity that God has in store for us. With love that we may not rush into relationships simply to be in one but be able to work toward and wait for the one that God has intended for us. Or, like the security guard with illness, that we may be patient with the time it takes our bodies to heal or the struggles that sometimes may never end.
And pray too that we might be patient with the poor, the sick, the elderly, and the disenfranchised amongst us — that we will not be abusive or dismissive of them because they do not satisfy our timetable. Or with our young that we be tolerant of the time it takes for them to learn, to grow and to mature.
For all of that and more we can and should pray that we may have the graceful patience of a saint, or at least of that security guard that I was so blessed to meet.