A Patient Reminder

I no longer take for granted the little luxuries like hot showers or color. Our troops have helped me to appreciate these things in my own life even more. After all, when you don’t see grass or trees for a year, the green of nature is like gold. I’d like to say that I remember this every single day. I’d like to, but I can’t. Some days I will in fact, “sweat the small stuff.” Luckily, it’s never long before something comes along to remind me to do otherwise.

The waiting game

I have to admit that I do not excel at waiting. In fact, I have been known to “abandon line” in stores if the checking-out process is too long. Once I accompanied my friend Linda shopping for clothes at a department store. An hour later, she had an armful of items and we made our way to the register. However, there was a long line AND multiple returns. For some reason, my friend refused to leave. So I scoured the place for the most “interesting” outfit (this was the 80s so….lots of choices) then I held it aloft and called out, “Linda! They DO have it in your size!” At first, people stared. But after I kept bringing Linda fashion-forward combinations to consider, they were laughing. Yes, Linda was laughing too. Eventually.

Fast forward to yesterday. I had waits and delays at every turn. If I were not already stressed, I probably wouldn’t have found it so irritating. Later, after I got home, I came across some old pictures one of my solders had sent me. The note on this one said, “waiting.” I couldn’t remember the rest of the story so I called him.

soldiers waiting in a bunker in Iraq

DYLAN: Well, that was Christmas morning in Iraq, 2009. Our base was being mortared. It started before sunrise. I think we had to stay in that bunker 7 or 8 hours. The good news was that they had shut down the chow hall earlier. I say that because we took a direct hit there. Luckily no one was inside. 

Suddenly, my delays didn’t seem quite so horrible. Instead, I felt lucky that I had the freedom to go run whatever errands I wanted. I had two uninjured legs to stand on in those lines. My reset button had been hit. So I jokingly said to Dylan, “Oh yeah? Well let me tell you about MY day and the waiting I endured.” As I feigned outrage, we both started laughing.

Dylan told me that he doesn’t like waiting either. Then he shared a checkout challenge that involved Walmart, two open registers, and what appeared to be the entire town shopping there at once. His quest for milk and lightbulbs took one bad turn after another and we laughed some more. As we talked, he never said, “don’t lose sight of what really matters.” He didn’t have to.

© Gina left the mall, 2013

15 thoughts on “A Patient Reminder

  1. Thanks again for reminding me of what is important. I’ve been having one of those weeks and definitely sweating the small stuff, so this reminded me to take a step back and be thankful that I have the small stuff to sweat over.

  2. Your wonderful story is a great example of why we have been bringing interviews with deployed members home every week for years. Sometimes it is just one comment quietly stated by a young soldier that makes one’s head snap with the realization of how mature this young person is and the incredible danger they are in, yet they still speak with a gentle voice and enjoy a good joke. Then, some interviews have been interrupted by the sirens warning of incoming rockets, resulting in the phone being dropped or the time our contact got under cover hoping to finish his radio interview. When talking about things missed while away from home, the items mentioned were not the biggest and smartest TV, not the high end tech or clothing styles. Things missed were like you said, green grass. Add home cooked meals or a favorite Pizza shop, just enjoying a drive on a safe, paved road, spending time with loved ones and friends. From a city skyline to a quiet lake, just the pleasure of being there and sharing those places with special people. Things that matter.

    • Judi,
      Thank you for giving our deployed men and women a voice. Thank you for helping them be better understood by and connected to those of us who benefit from their service. Our troops give us so much and then they give us more….they help us see what matters most. (And it most certainly is not a big TV.)

  3. I think this is one of the main things I have gained as I have traveled a short way down the road of modern military history – perspective. I remember the first time I watch Band of Brothers. I spent days looking at life through a film of battle. When you begin to try and understand what happens when a person is at war, when our men go to battle, you begin to treasure the things around you because of the sacrifice they have made so you can have them. I pray regularly for our service men and women and continue to study so I can better understand. Thanks for sharing this!

    • Thank you for supporting our men and women who serve. What you say about perspective is very true. Even if I do have my days/moments when I lose focus a little 🙂 Band of Brothers was an amazing movie. I think it’s wonderful that you took the time to see not only their point of view, but the treasure in your own life.

      Since I’ve become friends with some of the troops I support, I’ve have to limit my movie watching on this subject. I’m kind of a mush and sometimes it doesn’t feel like, “just a movie.” But I think it’s great that you continue to study, learn, and more importantly, care in all the ways that you do. Thank you for reading!

      • Thank you for sharing all your connections on this blog! I sometimes feel like it’s my responsibility to eatch, take in and treasure what warriors do and suffer. It usually comes pouring out in my books. :)) thanks for the encouragement!

    • When Dylan told me what the photo was, I immediately flashed on every annoyance that day. Including the line at Starbuck’s, the Subway ride home… yeah, I got some needed peg-reduction at that moment..lol. I can’t say I’ll never sweat small stuff again, but I think I do so less often now and for shorter durations. And those times it drags on? I bet our troops will come to my perspective-rescue again.

  4. In this day and age of instantized everything, patience is becoming somewhat of a lost art. One has to wonder, “Why the hurry? Where is everyone in such a hurry to get to?” In my own life, nothing good has ever come from being in a hurry, and I have to say, it’s wonderful to have escaped the pressure cooker. Your soldier’s story really puts patience into perspective.

    • I think the pervasiveness of “instant” in our lives can make “pressure cooker” feel like the norm. I think all that hurrying can lead to over-multitasking as well. Neither of these things allow us to truly appreciate the present moment we’re in or notice the good things around us. I think it’s awesome that you escaped that path and created your own.

    • NP, I have learned to appreciate the moment-to-moment more. But every now and then, I get caught up and forget to slow down. Hopefully most people don’t need the extreme to make the ordinary blessings clear. But it was certainly effective at the moment when I needed it 🙂

  5. When I read things like this, it makes me think how stupid I sound because I had to wait in line to be served by a slow check-out girl. I huff and puff, twist and turn followed by deep heavy breathing. Anyone would think I was having an asthma attack.

    8 hours of being under attack doesn’t bear thinking about and your still not free from danger when you eventually get out. Those soldiers do an incredible job, what more can I say.

    • RPD, I felt the same way about my “faux asthma attack” when Dylan told me about his attack. And you are right, there is no true break when they leave the bunker. Even when they get a day off to relax, they are still doing so in a combat zone. So yes, they’re doing an incredible job.

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