HAYDEN HOLLINGSWORTH: Impatience

Hayden Hollingsworth

Reading bumper stickers helps pass the time at traffic lights.  A minister friend of mine saw one that caught his attention:  Honk If You Love Jesus.   So he gave a toot only to have the driver respond with a wave not involving all five fingers.

I don’t suppose we can be too critical of the driver; who among us has not demonstrated impatience when the light turns green and the driver ahead is busy texting?  That feeling of frustration seems to be part and parcel to the rapid pace of modern living.  If things don’t happen right away, if we are required to wait a little longer for the light to change, then a finger drumming on the steering wheel followed by horn blowing is not an unusual response.

The famous mystic, Thomas Merton, had such an experience while waiting for the pedestrian light to flash on while at a busy intersection in Louisville.  As he was becoming increasingly irritated at the lengthy wait, he asked himself am I going to be happier after I cross this street?  The answer is obvious so why get agitated.

But agitated we become when the flow of whatever we are doing is held up, even briefly.  Why is that so?  Well, sometimes the delay is important.  The plane is going to leave in ten minutes and you are miles from the airport.  Your wife is in labor and car in front is driving at less than the speed limit.  You forgot an important appointment time and being late may have real consequences.  We can cut ourselves some slack for those situations, but more often than not the irritation is over something trivial.

When someone cuts you off from your right of way, maybe there’s a good reason . . .  the impending birth. For example, assuming that might be true, even without a shred of evidence, defuses the irritation of the experience.

The root of impatience is planted deeply in our daily living.  There are countless reasons but each time we find ourselves harassed by this annoying feeling, it is worthwhile to take a deep breath and let the feeling pass.  This is particularly true when driving.  Road rage is a phenomenon that was unheard of until recent times.  Most of us can recall a time when the annoyance began to boil over and the consequences of that can be disastrous.

It doesn’t have to be so.  A visually handicapped acquaintance of mine had to hire a driver, an older gentleman.  After a few weeks of being chauffeured he found his commute to work was much more enjoyable.  Beyond the obvious fact that he could relax, he realized that his driver was inordinately courteous to other drivers and pedestrians alike.

Asked why he was so considerate, the chauffeur replied, “I figure those folks don’t own their business like you; they got to be on time, so we ought to treat them like they is more important than you.”  When his vision improved to the point he could drive again, he carried his driver’s courtesy with him.

Impatience, although sometimes justified, results in more tension than it is usually worth.  Slow down . . . the world will wait for us.

Hayden Hollingsworth