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Patience is a virtue, but waiting is a pain

Waiting is tough! Just when I think the waiting will end, it goes on and on. I've been doing a lot of waiting lately. I'm waiting to hear about a job in Vermont. Job hunting involves lots of waiting. You complete applications and send in resumes and then wait for a reply. Sometimes you have to wait for an interview. I had to do that, and then I waited a month for a second interview. I flew to Vermont thinking "now I'll know," only to find out I have to do more waiting. As soon as the other interviews are finished, I'll know . . . maybe (picture me pulling out my hair).

The waiting we do is endless. We wait for the end of summer and then the end of winter. Waiting is boring, and most of us don't do it very well. Businesses are marketing our impatience with drive-through windows and promises to open more check-out lanes if more than a few people are waiting in line. And we cause others to wait. How many times have you been late? The editor of this column is always waiting on me because I rarely submit it on time.

While patience is a virtue, patience without progress can lead to conflict. Unrest in South Africa is a good example. Our troops may be in the Middle East to protect our oil supply. But this crisis, at least in part, has come about because the Palestinian people have been waiting decades for a homeland. I pray that by the time you read this, our troops are still waiting _ rather than shooting. Sometimes it is better to wait. Other times waiting can get us into more trouble. If we had a sound energy policy, we might not be in the Middle East now. Often things are put off until they become a crisis. Some of the environmental problems we have are because we waited too long to do anything about them. That kind of waiting can be very costly.

Not all waiting is bad. Often it's worth it. Expecting a baby. Nature just can't be rushed. It is nice that men no longer have to go to the waiting room. They can be involved in the birth of their child. Waiting while giving blood is worthwhile, and if you are an apheresis donor you have to wait over an hour. But to the recipient (usually children with leukemia), your patience is priceless. Other times waiting may be agonizing. Waiting for the results of a cancer test or AIDS test. And then there are the in-between situations. I have a very close friend in Vermont. I really enjoy writing to her, but I don't like waiting for her reply. It's great when the letter arrives. Better than a phone call because it is more lasting. My reward for waiting patiently.

We all do lots of waiting, in hundreds of ways. Lots of it in lines. Recently thousands waited to get lottery tickets. Then everyone waited to see whether they were a winner. There is not much we can do about waiting. It teaches us patience. Some of us learn it better than others. I'm waiting to sell my house. I may have to wait awhile. Waiting is part of life. You've probably heard the old saying that the only sure things in life are death and taxes . . . and waiting.

- Peter Johnke is a human services worker. He lives in St. Petersburg.