Tag Archives: patience

Hurry Up & Wait

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We knew prior to departure from LAX that we had a near impossible connection to make at DFW that was only made less likely when our flight left twenty minutes late. I was sure we would not and could not make it, and as we prepared for our final descent into Dallas I asked a flight attendant if he had any advice. He was kind and checked on our connecting flight and learned that it was (unfortunately, for once) on time, but he gave us the gate number and instructions on how best to race across the terminals.

I am a runner.  Let me loose.

The voice on the crackly airplane speaker asked everyone to show kindness and let those with tight connecting flights deplane first, and apparently 98% of the passengers on that particular flight had tight connecting flights. So we weren’t super quick getting off the plane.

I decided not to push the two elderly ladies waiting for wheelchairs out of the way, but when they created an opening, I was off. And we made it. Just in time. To what turned out to be the wrong gate.

Last-minute gate change? You have got to be kidding me.

So I was off to the races again. The voice on the loudspeaker declared that the doors to our (actual) gate would be closing momentarily and that every passenger should be on the aircraft. I ran even faster. Chariots of Fire music wafted through the airport. And we made it. For real this time. Barely. The last two to board.

We collapsed in our seats, breathing hard, and sweating, but happy to have made it in the nick of time. And then the captain announced over the intercom that there was a tiny lightbulb that needed changing and that maintenance was on its way, which took a good twenty minutes.

My sweet wife declared, “Hurry up and wait.”  Exactly.

That seems to be an accurate life mantra: Hurry up and wait. I long for some actual rhythm, but our mad dash through the airport only to wait on a maintenance crew is a pretty good descriptor of my days, weeks, months, and years. Hurry up and wait.

Distance runners do such a thing on purpose and call it interval training. It supposedly makes you better on those long runs. If that’s the case, I’m really going to be good at life someday.

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Spinning Plates

spinning-plates

“Have patience.  All things are difficult before they become easy.” – Saadi

Some days when life is particularly challenging I search Monster.com for openings with the circus, but since scooping elephant poop is less attractive than pretty much anything, I rarely finish the cover letter.  There is one circus art directly in my wheelhouse—plate spinning.  However, it is the constant challenge of keeping plates spinning that makes me consider the circus in the first place.

Life has been particularly full recently, which is one way to describe a plate count.  This isn’t the first time, nor do I anticipate it being (or even want it to be) the last, but it does feel different, and that difference eventually came clear: Not only are there many plates spinning, but various life developments have created plate spinning performances in multiple rooms for multiple audiences.  It isn’t the plate spinning act that is challenging: It is the running back and forth between acts that is difficult.

You may not believe me when I say that this is neither complaint nor cry for help.  But this is neither a complaint nor a cry for help.  It really is okay, more than okay, and I find the challenge exhilarating despite some periodic exhaustion.  I’m just adjusting to a new understanding that I am a plate spinning artist who is working on a new act and that people will pay good money for a ticket and some cotton candy to enjoy the show.  I’m just honored to be on stage.

New circumstances often come with a bonus gift of questioning whether it is worth the effort.  As a general rule, it is at least worth the effort to practice patience to see where the new circumstances lead.

I am certain there is no need to join the circus.  My life is already a bizarre, traveling show!

Your Time Will Come

A friend introduced me to the music of Johnny Clegg several years ago, and I am eternally grateful.  Clegg’s official website describes him as a “dancer, anthropologist, singer, songwriter, academic, activist and French knight” and that he “campaigned against the injustice of apartheid South Africa and been instrumental in putting the new South Africa on the map as a cultural ambassador.”  Pretty cool, right?

Clegg performed at Pepperdine last weekend, and one of my favorite moments in the concert came when Clegg referred to Nelson Mandela’s world-changing endurance to introduce the song “Your Time Will Come.”  Clegg said Mandela taught us that to live with such patience you must believe that everything will be alright in the end, and if it isn’t, then it isn’t the end.

The lyrics to “Your Time Will Come” are mostly in Zulu with an English ending.  Since my Zulu is a little rusty, here are the lyrics fully translated into English:

You were lying, do not tell lies.
You told lies, trying to mislead me,
so that I would give up my faith and hope.
That is what you said — you said that our future is hopeless,
our tomorrow is bleak, you were lying,
trying to mislead us.
No can do! We will never relinquish our faith.

Chorus:
Everything will be all right —
It’s just when this will be, we cannot know.
Everything will come right, I tell you friend.
Do not throw away your hope.
Me holding on one side, you holding on the other side
together we will pull through,
you and me, you and me.

My spirits are down,
I say to you child of my aunt, you have caused me great fear.
You told lies, trying to mislead me,
so that I would give up my faith and hope.
That is what you said — you said that our future is hopeless,
our tomorrow is bleak, you were lying,
trying to mislead us.
No can do! We will never relinquish our faith.

Chorus:

Everything will be all right —
It’s just when this will be, we cannot know.
Everything will come right, I tell you friend.

It will be all right my friend, I’m telling you.
Come true courage, for it is you who gives
life and takes it away,
me on this side, you on the other,
we will hold it together.
Don’t listen to the lies of my compatriot.
We will be victorious in the end, just you and me,
just you and me.

I saw the Berlin Wall fall
I saw Mandela walk free
I saw a dream whose time has come
Change my history — so keep on dreaming.

Dream on dreamer, dreamer.

In the best of times and in the worst of times
gotta keep looking at the skyline
not at a hole in the road
Your time will come, sister, your time will come
nobody’s gonna rush history, we have to ease it along
— just ease it along.

Life Expectancy

An online life expectancy calculator concluded that my check-out time is age ninety-two, but I don’t believe it for a second.  For one thing, that would mean enduring eleven more presidential campaigns, which is unimaginable, but more importantly, the calculation did not include that both of my parents died in their early seventies, that I seek out stressful jobs, and that my childhood diet consisted of fried baloney sandwiches, nacho cheese Doritos, Little Debbie snack cakes, and Dr. Pepper.  But hey, I’ll shoot for ninety-two and see what I get.

One thing in my favor is that I am not easily angered, and word on the street is that this is good for longevity.  Other than the peaceful people on the maternal side of my family tree, I have no idea why it is difficult to get under my skin.  But I’m happy it is true.  (Of course I am, or at least I’m not upset about it!)

Frederick Buechner once wrote:

Of the seven deadly sins, anger is possibly the most fun.

To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back—in many ways it is a feast fit for a king.

The chief drawback is what you are wolfing down is yourself.

The skeleton at the feast is you.

Anger simply isn’t worth it.  This is easier said than done, although I have a suggestion that seems a bit counter-intuitive to a happy life at first: lower your expectations.  I don’t mean lower your drive or goals or dreams, the fuel that makes life worth actually crawling out of bed in the morning, but I do mean living in reality enough to know that things rarely go as planned, and that that is okay.

Anger happens when life lets you down.  Expect that life will let you down.  Of all things, don’t let that come as a surprise.

For instance, I was told that I should live to age ninety-two.  I’m not counting on it.  (Cue Tim McGraw as I choose to live like I am dying!)

Be Patient

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When my family watched reruns of Adventures of Superman in my childhood years, I never dreamed that I would one day be walking the halls of The Daily Planet (Los Angeles City Hall) looking all Lex Luthory, but thanks to the gracious invitation of a Pepperdine alum on the staff of the Los Angeles City Attorney, I had the opportunity to serve on a panel discussing “servant leadership” at City Hall last Thursday.

Given the topic, representing Pepperdine on the panel made sense, but when the two other panelists were introduced it was apparent that on a personal level I was in line for the bronze medal. I went first and did not say or do anything particularly embarrassing. Then, Faye Washington, L.A. legend and President and CEO of YWCA Greater Los Angeles was spectacular. Finally, and last by request, Managing Assistant City Attorney, Anne Haley, spoke and took my breath away.

Anne spoke only of her father, George Haley, who passed away only a month ago at the age of 89. It was the first time since his passing that Anne spoke publicly of her father’s remarkable life.

George Haley was born in Tennessee but raised in my home state of Arkansas. He served in World War II and then attended Morehouse College alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. Although he could have attended Harvard Law School after college, he chose to be one of the first African-American students to attend the University of Arkansas when he enrolled at the law school in 1949. His experience was terrible.

Haley was required to study alone in a basement office that became popularly known as the “noose room” after classmates left a noose hanging for Haley one memorable afternoon. In spite of the cruel treatment, Haley went on to excel academically and in so doing changed the attitudes of many in the law school.

Haley moved to Kansas following law school where he worked on the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka case with Thurgood Marshall. He worked in politics at the state and national level, including roles under five U.S. presidents that culminated in his service as the U.S. Ambassador to The Gambia in West Africa.

You must understand the significance, for you see George’s older brother was Alex Haley, who famously won a Pulitzer Prize for Roots, the story of a slave brought to Colonial America from the very nation to which George Haley traveled to serve as the official representative of the United States.

After the panel, Ms. Haley gave me her card, and I pledged to move heaven and earth to provide an opportunity to tell her father’s story to our law students. She also gave me a copy of an article that her Uncle Alex published in Reader’s Digest in March 1963 titled, “The Man Who Wouldn’t Quit,” about her father’s experience as a law student in Arkansas, published just months before Dr. King delivered his “I Have a Dream Speech” in Washington, D.C. (I am thankful to say that the article is available online HERE.) When I arrived home that evening, I read the article in full to my wife and youngest daughter and her best friend, Katie. I was moved beyond words.

This experience and story struck close to home both literally and figuratively and stirred many thoughts and emotions inside me. I still see so many hateful divisions in the world and yet am inspired by a young man’s decision sixty-six years ago to willingly put his life and future on the line to heal such deep hatred—and who didn’t let the hatred win.

At a key point in the story, Haley’s father advised him, “Be patient with them.” That is what motivated George Haley to be The Man Who Wouldn’t Quit. That is a lesson I need to hear over and over again.