The Season for Waiting

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The Article

I once read that most people spend on average two years of their lives waiting—waiting in lines, waiting for the waitress to bring the food, waiting for the furnace repairman. We may live in a fast-paced world, but there are some things we just can’t hurry. And waiting is aggravating, especially if you, like me, always pick the slowest line at the grocery store.

The Christmas season is all about waiting. We wait for that one special day when those much anticipated presents will finally be unwrapped, the extended family will arrive, and delicious aromas will fill the air. And waiting is torture, especially for younger ones. I’ve always felt it’s awfully unfair for children that we put our Christmas trees up in November. These poor tots with very little concept of time now have to wait over a month for Christmas, after being reminded of it daily.

When my husband was about nine, he was so tired of waiting that he took his two younger brothers and enticed them to open all the Christmas presents hidden in their parents’ closet. After examining their loot, they then rewrapped the lot, assuming their mother wouldn’t notice their haphazard job. They were wrong.

Waiting has always been an integral part of Christmas. From Mary waiting for her baby to be born to children waiting for dawn on that glorious morning, we wait. We dream of tomorrow and live for tomorrow, but in the process I wonder if we miss much of today.

When it’s presents we’re waiting for, waiting is full of excitement. But often the waiting periods in our lives are more characterized by dread than joy. I have several friends currently far back on a waiting list for specialist appointments, just so they can figure out what’s wrong. In the meantime, all these horrible diagnoses are dancing through their heads, where I’m sure they’d prefer sugar plums to be. And living in the agony of not knowing is the worst part of waiting.

If we could all do what my husband did and rip open the wrapping paper early perhaps we could take it. But when you’re waiting and there’s absolutely nothing you can do, life is painful. I have other dear friends whose daughter was just diagnosed with a serious disease. They’re spending their Christmas in and out of the hospital, and they won’t know a final prognosis for years. Even though things will likely turn out fine, that’s a lot of waiting.

I spent months waiting when I was pregnant with my second child, and the doctors told us that he had a heart defect which was likely to prove fatal. They just couldn’t tell me how long he would have. The rest of my pregnancy was spent preparing myself to meet the son I would one day bury.

What I learned through that difficult process, though, is that there’s no point in trying to prepare for every possible contingency, because only one thing is going to happen anyway. How much better it is just to savour the moment, and love the time that has been given to you.

None of us actually knows what tomorrow will bring, and when we try to live for all the things that might happen, we miss out on what is happening right now. If we spend our lives worrying, how can we enjoy what we actually have?

There’s really no point in spending our lives waiting. We can’t do anything about the future anyway. But we can love today. We can forgive today. We can hug today, and laugh today, and even cry today. We can choose not to sweat the little things. We can choose to let little grudges go. Treasure up those you love; cherish their smiles, and their voices, and their hugs. Don’t wait to mend fences; do it now, when Christmas is upon us, and people are misty-eyed over family and peace and love and joy.

There is no better time. So why wait?

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