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FIRST-PERSON: If patience is a virtue, we need a refill in 2003

JACKSON, Tenn. (BP)–About a week before Christmas, I had to get a prescription filled at our local grocery store pharmacy. Rather than deal with the congestion of people inside, I decided to take advantage of the “walk-up” window the pharmacy had installed recently. A sort of cross between a fast-food window and bank teller drive-thru, I half-expected the approaching pharmacist to say “Welcome to Kroger Pharmacy — may I take your order?”

He didn’t. Instead, he offered me a slightly wry look, pushed a button and said, “Yes?”

While I was waiting for him to bring me my prescription and feeling slightly silly that I was getting my medicine much in the same way I would a Big Mac and fries, I turned and watched the busy pace of the parking lot behind me. Pedestrians hurried back and forth, risking life and limb as they dashed between oncoming cars that refused to slow down to a courteous crawl. A woman, all bundled up, stood in front of the store next to a shiny red kettle, ringing a bell while people quickly passed by trying to avoid eye contact — and the possibility they might have to stop.

For many years, it’s been common for our American society to be described as fast-paced but it struck me as I stood outside that day in front of that pharmacy window and since, that with our desire for quick service and faster response has come an enormous lack of patience with ourselves and with each other that only seems to be growing worse. Indulge me in noting a few examples.

Have you heard of anyone lately having to wait to make a phone call? Not since the Age of the Cell Phone arrived, I would guess. Now, everyone and their relative can have a phone glued to their hip, hand or pocketbook, always in reachable distance of whomever they need to get in touch with, with phones even offering one-touch numbers. If that’s too much patience for you, some phones will allow you to just say the person’s name and it immediately dials in response. Progress or brain-cell killer? After all, if we’re not using those memory cells God gave us, just where are they all going? (I don’t think they’re being stored for extra use later, if that’s what you’re thinking.)

With the start of a new year upon us and thoughts of losing weight once again springing to mind after the holiday binge, what about all of these fad diet plans and pills? Who wants to take the time to exercise and plan well-balanced meals when you can starve yourself for three days to lose two pounds or take those expensive pills to gain it all back and plus some when you finally run out of the money to buy the pills? While the recent lawsuit involving the Golden Arches was ludicrous, making the claim that this “national emblem” was to blame for making people fat, there was a point to be learned. Does no one cook for themselves anymore? (Even if you cook badly — it’s still a way to keep the calories low!)

Just the other day, my husband and I were driving in a new area we’d never been in and he asked me if I noticed something different about the intersection where we were stopped. He pointed out a tiny camera positioned next to the stoplight. It wasn’t for surveillance, as I had guessed, but was used to deliver a signal to the light when a car pulled up to the intersection, allowing it to change faster. (I’m sure the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on that system was well worth it for the 20 or so seconds saved by someone on their morning commute.)

While patience isn’t likely to become something on the endangered species list, I would venture to say most of us could use a little more. As a Christian, I must confess there are many times I fall short of depending on God for my needs and I try to take care of something myself simply because I think it will happen faster. But that’s not always the best response. Sometimes, the pure act of being patient and waiting on God can bring the most glory to him, and help grow our faith along the way.

I have a good friend who has been telling me quite a bit lately to “be patient.” Patience in handling all the many details that seem to come with a new move, a new job and a new start. While I don’t usually make resolutions (since I usually don’t have the patience to keep them), if I could do one thing this year, it would be to say a prayer for patience. Patience in dealing with everyday life, the things that have to be fixed and the bills that have to be paid. Patience with family and friends and patience with strangers. Patience with my husband and my little boy. Patience when things don’t go my way or things happen that I don’t understand. Patience in my faith and patience with God.

May God bless our country with patience and fortitude in the days ahead, and our leaders with wisdom and courage in 2003.
Horn formerly was director of news and media relations at Union University and now is a writer at LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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  • Sara Horn