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Society could use patience

“Patience is a virtue. Possess it if you can; seldom in a women; never in a man.” My mother would recite that ditty to me as a child when I was impatient with myself or with my siblings.

Of course, the gender generalizations are silly. Some men are patient and so are many women. But it is also true that most of us are often impatient.

We’re impatient with our world, with our governments and with its policies. We are impatient with our churches, and with ourselves.

For instance, like most of the nation, we are having a horrible winter here in Western New York. There has been much snow and drivers of snowplows, in bitter wind-chill temperatures, are doing their best to plow our roads. Their priorities, of course, are the main and then the secondary roads, but are we who live on side streets patient?

Do we understand, or try to understand, that the snowplow operators, in difficult circumstances, are doing the best they can?

That’s one of the ways we can cultivate patience. We can put ourselves in the other guy’s shoes – or into his fur lined, steel toed boots.

And on the national scene, have we been patient with the major snafu on the rollout of the Affordable Care Act? Can’t we remember that there were glitches with Social Security and Medicare when they were first introduced. As the legislation evolved those problems were eventually fixed. Won’t it be the same with Obama Care, if we as a nation are patient?

That’s another way we can cultivate patience. We can look beyond the immediate problem and attempt to see things in the long swath of history – and over the years of our lives.

I recently came from the memory care unit where my wife is a client because of her Alzheimer’s disease. I was trying to get her to eat, but she was easily distracted and I got impatient with her. The staff, however, helped us and were much more patient than I.

That’s a third way we can cultivate patience. We can remember that the ones with whom we are impatient are sick, or addicted – struggling in their own way. If we made ourselves recall that, we’d all be more patient.

Finally, no organization: International, national, educational, or ecclesiastical has all the truth or all the answers. They might think they do, citing sacred texts like the Constitution of the United States, the Bible or the Koran, but truth is much more elusive and being elusive it should make us humble and patient – even with those who think they have all the answers.

Of course, there is a time for patience and a time for action. We should not let patience silence us into accepting incompetence, mendacity and stupidity. To paraphrase the serenity prayer of Alcoholics Anonymous, God, grant me the patience to accept the things I cannot change. The courage to change the things I can. And the wisdom to know the difference.

If we remind ourselves that we, or no one, or no group has all the gifts, we will tend to be more patient with everyone.

I conclude with the words of Saint Paul from the Christian Scriptures, “Love is patient and kind” (I Cor. 13″4).

As in most things, love is the answer. Not romantic love. Not sexual love, but as St. Thomas Aquinas told us, “Love is willing good to another.” Willing good for the snow plow operators; willing good for those with sickness and addiction; even willing good to our politicians.

That will make us patient. Go and do likewise.

Retired from the administration at State University of New York at Fredonia, Daniel O’Rourke lives in Cassadaga. His columns once appeared regularly in the OBSERVER. A grandfather, Dan is a married Catholic priest. His book, “The Living Spirit” is a collection of his previous columns. To read about that book or send comments on this column visit his website www.danielcorourke.com