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Try This: Wait

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Waiting has a silver lining: breathing space

but remember to breath

Years ago my wife and I met friends living in a developing country. We hung around for a few days to see what life looked like. Turns out life looked like lines. Long lines. Hours to pay an electric bill in person. Hours more for the water bill. This country was known for layer after layer of bureaucracy to handle the red tape, so the lines kept people employed even as they drove me crazy. I wondered aloud how my friend could stand it—especially knowing he tended toward a Type A personality who relished getting things done. He said, “That’s just the way it is.”

It’s hard to see any benefit in waiting. We work hard to eliminate waiting every day. I pull ahead of drivers focused on phone conversations rather than the road. I seek out the shortest line at the grocer. I click elsewhere when a web page loads too slowly. I don’t like waiting. I bet you don’t like waiting.

But my friend used his waiting time wisely. There was no plugged or unplugged then. Unlike today when most people waiting are looking into a screen, he brought a book. He prayed. He talked with people in line. My friend was a smart guy (still is) and he made a lot of connections between different parts of life. He ran a printing business, started a college and a home for families whose children were in the local hospital—even as he waited in long lines for the business of everyday.

Two recent books advocate intentional unplugging from the web, if only for short times: The Shallows by Nicholas Carr and Hamlet’s Blackberry by William Powers. Both books look at the effect of a mind crowded with stimulus and hint at what might happen with a bit of mental breathing space, which is a kind of waiting. Waiting is also a time-honored means of reflection and forward-movement in the Bible. I just finished reading the book of Psalms and saw how author after author waited for God to do something. They prayed. And they waited. And they watched (and waited).

Waiting comes with the capacity to sharpen our interest, our eyesight and our appetite. Waiting also has a purifying effect on our long-term goals. We become more realistic as we wait (or perhaps we become more insistent). But know for certain that something will change as we wait.

I’m working at waiting. Today I’ll look for an opportunity to stand around and wait. It will be hard to not pull out my phone with its checklists and documents. But waiting may allow me to connect the dots in a fresh way.


Photo Credit: We Love Typography

Written by kirkistan

May 31, 2011 at 9:02 am

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