Lately I’ve been working through the delicate art of waiting gracefully. Instead of just struggling through it myself, I’ve decided to share this journey here, with you.
My hope is that at the end of this blog series we will both find ourselves with some of the weight, AND the wait lifted.
As I was driving home today, my mind flashed back some 15 years to the first of many times I sat and waited at the food stamp office. I took a number, sat there with my 3- and 7-year-old daughters, and waited to be seen. It was two years after I unexpectedly lost my husband to divorce, and consequently my home, my vehicle, my job, and my savings. And now there I sat – at a place I never imagined I would ever be.
Dora the Explorer was blasting over the TV. I recall she was going on a berry hunt and Swiper was definitely swiping. The low ceiling sagged at one corner, so we moved just in case it gave way. An old woman slept in the corner while her 3-year-old granddaughter sat at her feet eating an endless amount of goldfish crackers.
We sat (mostly figeted) for over an hour before we were called up to the little window where I was told to fill out several more forms and then wait until I was called back up to turn them in. When they called my number an hour and a half later, we were in the restroom. I waited another half hour before I went up to the window and found out my number had been crossed off earlier as a no-show. Tears formed in my eyes. I didn’t want to be there; no one ever wants to be there. The lady told me I could either wait until she could fit me back in, or I could come back the next day. And so we waited.
A month later we got our food stamp and medicaid cards. I always budgeted that money. We had many nights of store brand mac & cheese with dented cans of green beans, and many mornings of store brand coffee out of the clearance bins. If I was lucky, they’d have vanilla coffee on clearance. My fave!
It was during that season of lack that I learned how to “make due” in hard times. I am glad for that season now. We don’t need fancy fixins. The girls still remember that day and so many like it. The girls got so used to it that they knew just what toys to bring while we sat and waited.
During that season I started back to school, so I’d do my homework while we waited for hours. During that season I learned to look around that waiting room and make sure to give the other moms a helping hand with their kids on bathroom breaks. I learned to ask someone to listen for my number and to tell other moms that I’d listen for theirs.
Most of all I learned compassion. I loved listening to other people’s stories and I loved giving them hope by encouraging them not to give up.
If you’re ever tempted to look at my life now after graduate school and think – she’s got it all together, please know that I remember what it’s like to spend hours in a welfare line.
If you’re in a place of waiting now and you can’t stand where you are, please look around. Other people need your story. Other people need your encouragement, even if it’s only a smile. Please remember: A smile is a full sentence. A hug is a full conversation. Other people waiting need your help. And the more we help each other, the more we’ll find our wait – lifting.
Click here for the next blog in this series.