By Guest Blogger Tracy Huneycutt

My preteen son is constantly amazed when I tell him stories of the past. In the 1980s and 1990s the world operated at a different pace. While I appreciate many of the technological advances created over the last several decades, I can’t help but look back on those years and yearn for simpler times of patience.

What would be deemed huge inconveniences today were considered a normal part of life. It was in those moments of waiting and delays that special memories were made. In addition, the art of acquiring patience was cultivated.

I remember many moments from my childhood that revolved around waiting. Arriving at restaurants before online reservations existed meant playing outside with friends while we waited on our table to be ready. I remember family gatherings at grandparents’ houses where my cousins and I would play outside for hours, waiting for lunch or dinner to be prepared, before technology became our entertainment.

Those were the decades when we studied foldout maps for road trips. Also, where we kept loose change in our vehicles for phone booth calls. Research for essays and projects was done at public libraries. We poured over encyclopedias for hours to obtain the information we needed. Important news was printed on paper letters and sent via “snail mail.”

Children and teenagers wait for very few things these days; we live in a culture of immediacy, not patience. When we want something to eat, we can order online ahead of time. Groceries can be purchased for same-day or next-day delivery. Alexa devices, smart phones, and computers grant us instant access to information. Movies and shows can be streamed and downloaded for us to watch when we wish. We communicate with loved ones and friends through text, phone calls, and emails. Since we always have our devices with us, replies are instantaneous.

The post-Covid climate has shifted our society, one of the ways being that many businesses, stores, and restaurants struggle to fill available positions. As a result, many employees are overworked and burdened; demands from customers have increased but staffing has decreased.

I have quietly observed many instances lately regarding patience and waiting – skills that I strive to model for my child. During moments when I’ve had to wait in the public sphere, the employees present have been overly apologetic for the wait time, visibly bracing themselves for the lashing to come. This has led me to believe that customers are often belligerent with members of the service industry when faced with inconveniences.

A recent article from Forbes titled, “Impatient People Are Forced to Be Patient Everyday: They Should Take a Hint,” said, “We expect, unconsciously, to get everything we want in a matter of seconds, minutes, or, in the worst case, hours. We have developed a culture of immediacy that has made us impatient beyond reason.” *

The results of our collective impatience could have a detrimental effect on us all. There are still essential components of our society that take time, especially if we need them produced correctly and safely.

If a pharmacist feels overwhelmed when they are measuring and filling prescriptions, they could make a fatal error. If a medical practitioner is stressed and distracted when performing an important test, they may miss a vital symptom. Perhaps, if a mechanic is told by the manager of the body shop that every customer is on a time-crunch, they could make a vehicle repair incorrectly while rushing. If a server is reflecting over a previous interaction with an irate customer when entering a new food order, they could forget to input that a diner has a severe food allergy.

As we raise the younger generation – a generation programed to obtain information at their fingertips in the blink of an eye – it will be essential to offer them opportunities to wait; opportunities to be gracious and patient while fellow humans are trying their best to accommodate everyone’s needs.

I recently placed an online order at a popular breakfast restaurant. When my son and I arrived, the dining room was filled with customers. We were informed by the hostess that they were still working on our order. My son quietly asked me what time I had requested the order to be ready. I said, “It’s okay if they are running a little behind; they are very busy, and all of the staff are working hard.” He sighed as we sat down on a bench.

“It is good for you to learn how to be patient,” I told him. “Take a minute to sit and rest, and we can people-watch and talk while we wait.” He may have initially rolled his eyes at my old-fashioned request, but he indulged me, nonetheless. We spent the wait time discussing football, school, and our favorite breakfast foods.

I am grateful for moments when I can model patience for him. Times when I can demonstrate calmness, compassion, and understanding towards my fellow humans. Occasions to show him the importance of preparing ahead as much as possible, of having backup plans in place in case our intentions do not go as scheduled. Most importantly, showing grace to others when they cannot immediately meet our wishes.

We may never go back to the simpler times in which I grew up, but we can create opportunities for our children to see the value and importance of slowing down. Thus, appreciating the moments within the moments.


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