Do You Remember?

James was cleaning out the attic one day when he came across a ticket from a shoe repair shop. The date stamped on the ticket showed it was over eleven years old. He felt sure the shoes would not still be there but decided to stop by and check anyway.

He handed the ticket to the man behind the counter, who scowled at the date. “Just a minute,” said the clerk. “I’ll have to look for these.” He disappeared into a back room.

After a few minutes, the clerk called out, “What do you know – here they are!”

“That’s terrific!” said James, hardly believing his good fortune.

The man came back to the counter, empty-handed. “They’ll be ready Thursday,” he said.

I hope James is the patient sort.

We should all be masters of patience; after all, we’ve had plenty of practice. But mustering patience with unreasonable people (including ourselves) may seem more than we can manage some days.

I heard about an elderly patient in an American hospital who was recovering from a medical procedure. He decided to take a look at his recovery-room record attached to the bed frame. He leafed through the pages, then stopped at one particular notation and furled his brow in consternation.

“I know I was in a bit of a muddle, but I didn’t realize I was that bad,” he said apologetically to his nurse. “I hope I didn’t offend anyone.”

She glanced to the spot where he pointed. “Don’t worry,” she said. “SOB doesn’t mean what you think. It stands for ‘short of breath.’”

But I suspect that in some cases it does have a double meaning. Especially if the patient is in pain, fearful or just plain out of sorts. (And that goes for some of the hospital staff, too.)

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once said, “I am extraordinarily patient, provided I get my own way in the end.” But we don’t always get our own way. And patience can be taxed beyond reason. 

Where does understanding come from when it feels as if there is nothing left?

It can come from the simple act of remembering. To remember is to understand. It is not about gritting one’s teeth and forcing oneself to be more patient. It is actually easier than that.

Do you remember what it was like to be a child? No parent should ever forget. And to remember is to understand what your child may be going through or feeling.

Do you remember what it was like to be a student? Every teacher should try to remember, and especially if they feel frustrated – what is really happening in the life of that student and what would I be feeling in this class at this time?

Do you remember what it is like to be a patient? Doctors and nurses show more empathy after they have also spent time in a hospital bed.

Do you remember what it was like to be lonely? To be first? To be last? To fail? To succeed? To be afraid? To remember is to understand.

And to understand is to be patient.

And so, we pray: Father, I recall the words of Martin Luther when he said: “Remember your Baptism and be thankful. I seem to not remember that which is important or remember what I was feeling when I was in those same young shoes. Help me to remember that I may be more caring and more understanding of those around me. Amen.

Grace and Peace

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