Patience is a difficult and sometimes distant mountain to climb
In My Father’s House / Paul Thomas Moore
I had a bit of a temper tantrum last week. I slammed a kitchen drawer. I was frustrated that someone called just as we were about to watch our favorite TV show. My wife is very kind to relatives and friends and would never say our favorite show is coming up. That meant we had to wait an extra day to watch the show on a streaming service (how quickly such conveniences become commonplace).
I know — big inconvenience, right? I didn’t say I had a good excuse, and really, the reason doesn’t matter. Nothing justifies petulance.
At the time, as with most sins, I did not appreciate the ramifications — or more precisely the reverberations — of my actions.
Turns out a little plaque propped up against the wall beside the kitchen drawer toppled over. I left the kitchen without noticing that. Soon after, my wife found the plaque lying face down on a stove burner that had not yet fully cooled. The face of the plaque wasn’t severely damaged, just singed enough to remind me forever after of “Paul’s folly.”
There is a home movie from my childhood I’m not very proud of. It is Christmas morning, and all is sweetness and light. I’m in front of the Christmas tree trying to put together one of my new toys, and it won’t go together. I am visibly sulking (there is no sound, mercifully).
ACQUIRING PATIENCE CAN TAKE TIME
How long does it take to become a patient person? My late father-in-law used to speak of a time when he was in the Navy in World War II, stationed in Washington State, where he and his crewmates were awaiting orders to ship out. One day, they spied Mount Rainier in the distance, and figured it looked like a nice afternoon hike.
Long story short, mountains can look a lot closer than they really are. The boys straggled back to the barracks later that evening, never having reached Rainier. My father-in-law was a very patient man, and maybe that’s one of the experiences that helped him acquire it.
For myself, the acquisition of patience always seems closer than it really is. I expect it will be a while before I reach the base of Mount Patience, let alone the summit.
A SONG’S CAUTIONARY TALE
Speaking of patience and mountains and learning to summon our better angels when upset, I am reminded of the 60s song “One Tin Soldier.” It’s a cautionary tale of the ruinous places we can go when we allow emotions of frustration and fear to take over, unchecked by disciplined, loving patience.
In the song, there’s a treasure on the mountain which is coveted by the people of the valley. The mountain people say they are happy to share, but that’s not good enough for the valley people. To paraphrase a contemporary advertisement — and our modern society — they want it all, and they want it now. The valley people get themselves all worked up “. . . mount their horses, draw their swords . . .” Then they ride up and kill the peaceful people on the mountain.
However, when they come to claim their reward and dig up the mountain people’s “treasure” they find it consists of only three words. As the song’s climactic line intones, “‘Peace on earth’ was all it said.”
The kitchen plaque was a gift from one of my siblings. Of all of us, he’s probably the one who has encountered the most mountains in his life. With God’s help he has scaled those peaks, fought off any natural temptation to bitterness, and emerged triumphant as a loving, Christian man. When we pray, he is usually asked to lead — because he prays with his soul. I’m so blessed that the plaque he gave us was not more badly damaged.
It reads, “May God fill you with joy and peace.” (Roman 15:13)
PAUL THOMAS MOORE is a Catholic commentator and singer-songwriter. He and wife Mary Louise attend St. Mary of Lourdes in Germantown Hills. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.