The Waiting Game


Henrylito D. Tacio

Mr. Tacio, who hails from Davao, is a correspondent of the Asian edition of Reader’s Digest. He is the first and only Filipino journalist to have been elevated to the Hall of Fame in science reporting by the Philippine Press Institute. In 1999, the Rotary Club of Manila bestowed him the Journalist of the Year award. He is also East Asia’s contributing editor of the People & the Planet based in London.

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“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience,” said American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson. To which American novelist Josiah Gilbert Holland added, “There is no royal road to anything, one thing at a time, all things in succession. That which grows fast, withers as rapidly. That which grows slowly, endures.”

Patience, patience. The Holy Bible, the book of all seasons, teaches us how to patient all the time. Take the case of Abraham. At age 75, he was given God’s promise of a son. Ten years later, he was still waiting. Fifteen years passed, then 20, and still no son. Finally, when Abraham was 100, a quarter-century after God had made the promise, baby Isaac was born.

“Surely Abraham had times of doubt during those 25 years,” commented Dr. Charles Stanley, an inspirational author and speaker. “Yet, he continued to trust God and kept watching for the fulfillment of His promise.”

There are many examples from the Bible. As a young man, Jacob met the girl of his dreams, but he worked many years before making her his bride. Joseph had a God-given vision of blessing at age 17 but languished 13 years in slavery and prison before receiving the reward. David was anointed King of Israel as a teenager but spent the next 14 years or so running for his life before taking the throne.

Those stories were related to us during Vacation Bible School every summer. How many summers have come and go, I can only guess. And time came when the words of Paul Sweeney was the norm and children don’t pay attention anymore to patience.

“How can a society that exists on instant mashed potatoes, packaged cake mixes, frozen dinners, and instant cameras teach patience to its young?” Sweeney wondered. When I was growing up, we had to wait for days – even weeks – before we received letters from another person. And it may take days again to reach our answers to those letters. In those days, the fastest way of sending communications was through telegram.

Yes, we grew up when patience was very important. “The two most powerful warriors are patience and time,” reminded Egyptian novelist Leo Tolstoy. “Patience,” said a Turkish proverb, “is the key to paradise.” And Mahatma Gandhi reiterated, “To lose patience is to lose the battle.”

Men of science themselves value patience. Thomas A. Edison said, “Everything comes to him who hustles while he waits.” And Albert Einstein once admitted, “I think and think for months and years, ninety-nine times, the conclusion is false. The hundredth time I am right.”

“He that can have patience can have what he will,” American statesman Benjamin Franklin said.

A young man presented himself to the local expert on gems and said he wanted to become a gemologist. The expert brushed him off because he feared that the youth would not have the patience to learn. The young man pleaded for a chance. Finally, the expert consented and told the youth, “Be here tomorrow.”

The next morning, the expert put a jade stone in the boy’s hand and told him to hold it. The expert then went about his work: cutting, weighing, and setting gems. The boy sat quietly and waited.

The following morning, the expert again placed the jade stone in the youth’s hand and told him to hold it. On the third, fourth, and fifth day, the expert repeated the exercise and the instructions.

On the sixth day, the youth held the jade stone, but could no longer stand the silence. “Sir,” he asked, “when am I going to learn something?”

The expert answered, “You’ll learn.”

Several more days went by and the youth’s frustration mounted. One morning, as the expert approached and beckoned for him to hold out his hand, he was about to blurt out that he could go on no longer. But as the expert placed the stone in the youth’s hand, the young man exclaimed without looking at his hand, “This is not the same jade stone!”

“You have begun to learn,” the expert told him.

“Patience can’t be acquired overnight,” said Eknath Easwaran, an Indian spiritual leader. “It is just like building up a muscle. Every day you need to work on it.”

The description of Epictetus was even more picturesque: “No greater thing is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig, I answer you that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen.”

“The key to everything is patience,” reminded Arnold H. Glasgow. “You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it.” But on second thought, “We smile at the ignorance of the savage who cuts down the tree in order to reach its fruit; but the same blunder is made by every person who is over eager and impatient in the pursuit of pleasure.” Those words come from the pen of William Channing.

But do people still wait today? Even in the past as it is today, there is no such thing as sudden results. Listen to the words of Jacob Riis: “When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stone-cutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at a hundredth and first blow, it will split in two, and I know it was not that last blow that did it – but all that had gone before.”

“Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves,” Rainer Maria Rilke advises. “Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps, then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”

In Choke, Chuck Palahniuk wrote: “After you find out all the things that can go wrong, your life becomes less about living and more about waiting.”

To end this piece, allow me to share this anecdote from The Ersatz Elevator written by Lemony Snicket:

“Are you ready?” Klaus asked finally.

“No,” Sunny answered.

“Me neither,” Violet said, “but if we wait until we’re ready we’ll be waiting for the rest of our lives, let’s go.”

Aug 2018 Health and Lifestyle

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