Waiting on the World

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Over Thanksgiving we traveled to New York City, which was a great joy but also a continual exercise in patience: waiting for airport security lines, waiting for planes to board and deplane, waiting for crowds to move, waiting for buses and subway trains, for restaurant tables, for Stop lights and Don't Walk signs. 

When packing for the trip and without a thought to the need for patience that such a trip would envitably exact, I had thrown in my backpack the unopened book Patience: How We Wait Upon the World by David Baily Harned. Reading a few pages in my hotel room each night, I barely made a start at the book but got far enough to appreciate Harned's contrast between patience as a civic virtue and patience as a spiritual virtue. 

Pilot: There's another plane parked at our gate, so it will be a few minutes until we can deplane. We appreciate your patience.

Harned writes, "Perhaps impatience is not the original human sin--though some would argue that it is--but there has been consistent agreement within the Christian tradition that impatience does not signify merely the absence of a single virtue but the erosion of them all." Quoting William Lynch, Harned suggests that "the decision to wait is one of the great human acts."