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Me and Patience: We are on Speaking Terms

Last Monday, I arrived early in the morning to welcome the first summer campers back to the WCY.  Faith Boynton, our Youth Development Director, sat on the concrete abutment outside the front door, behind a small table.  She seemed to know every child, even the one for whom this is their first year of summer camp.  “Lily!” she would shriek, as she stepped from behind the table to give a camper a welcome hug.  (She didn’t call everyone “Lily”, she used their actual name!)  She asked parents, “Does she have sunscreen?  Who is picking up?” 

Some of the new children clung to their parents, a little anxious about heading out alone to a new group of people.  Faith squatted down to be eye to eye focused on them:  what they were wearing, their backpacks, or their shoes, for example, “I love the way your shoes light up.”  She asked them who their favorite Disney character is. (That was the theme last week.) 

Even if a line started forming, she took the time to be with that child, to make her feel seen, to show that child she belongs here.   All the staff does that.  And it works.  By Friday at the cookout, the children were talking to each other, dancing, laughing.  They recognize that they belong here.  It just took a willingness to engage and patience.

Of those two, engaging is the easier one for me.  Patience?  We are on speaking terms.   (I hope to get much closer to it.)  I see my colleagues model it everyday and am inspired. 

While waxing the floors this weekend, I listened to a book called 4000 Weeks, by Oliver Burkeman.  The chapter on patience struck a chord.  Though patience has a bad reputation as asking us to suppress our wants, he made a strong case to “stop badgering reality to hurry up.”  

I remember how uncertain I felt when I first went to camp.  I didn’t know anyone, where to go, what to do.  I wanted so badly to fit in.  But no amount of desire makes up for time.  I had to be patient. Getting in shape is another example.  No matter how much effort I put in, it still takes time.

Mr. Burkeman extends this idea to deeper relationships:

“To experience the profound mutual understanding of the long-married couple, you have to stay married to one person.  To know what it is like to be deeply rooted in one community and place, you have to stop moving around.  Those are the kinds of singular and meaningful accomplishments that just take the time they take.”

This has special meaning for me today, as my late wife Sarah and I were married 29 years ago.  I spend a certain amount of time thinking about where and how I want to spend the next 29 years.  I want what those children in camp want: to feel seen, to feel as if my presence makes a positive difference: to feel that I belong. 

With each season, I feel more and more a part of this Y and this community.  And I look forward to deepening that sense.  I am going to practice patience.

Have a great July!

 

Russell 

P.S. Here are three principles of patience from the book… I like them enough to share!

1) “Develop a taste for having problems” - For, as the author points out, life can be seen as a parade of problems that we solve, one after another.

2) “Embrace radical incrementalism” – Over time, smaller, consistent efforts trump larger, diffused ones.

3) “Originality lies on the far side of unoriginality” – He uses a metaphor about the Helsinki bus system attributed to the photographer Arno Rafael Minkkinen to point out that it takes time and effort to reach a deeper understanding.  And there is no substitute. 

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