We are still waiting to hear from our local surgery about an appointment for our COVID-19 vaccination. We are told not to contact the surgery but to wait. We are also told, as of this week, not to wait but to book an appointment online, which will be at a centre further away from where we live. Do we go on waiting and if so for how long?
Waiting is one of those experiences which at times seems easy and at others seems impossible. Sitting in a silent circle at the Meeting House makes expectant waiting normal and often inspirational. Whereas sitting in a room waiting for the dentist can be full of apprehension and drag on for what seems like hours.
I have been reading a book offering guidance for Elders and Overseers amongst Quakers entitled ‘With a Tender Hand’. One of the sections is about how to go about contacting ‘absent Friends’. These may be people who have just missed one or two Meetings or those who have not been seen for ages and who may have moved away from the area or perhaps died! The book offers sensitive and sensible advice. It asks if the motive for wanting to contact these friends is for the sake of the Meeting or from a concern for the friend. It also offers guidance on how to make contact and by whom and even gives suggestions the way an enquiry may be phrased.
One of the consistent themes expressed in the book is about listening; this is the single most important thing we can do. Waiting and listening to really hear what is being said by the other person is the aim. Rather than waiting for the opportunity to say what we want to say as soon as the other person has finished speaking. The Quaker practice in worship of leaving space between any ministry is a sign of this commitment to waiting and listening.
We are doing a lot of waiting during this long spell of the pandemic with its now multiple lockdowns. Another technique we often use is to fill the time with activity. Many of us have been doing DIY and I am no exception. Little bits of painting, repairing, tidying, filing all have come to be means of distraction from the waiting time. So have playing games, watching television or a movie, or so I hear, doing jigsaw puzzles!
Yet, sitting silently and waiting expectantly can be much more rewarding. It requires some discipline and focus. Some might be familiar with meditation or prayer and find that it fits this description. Whatever our words or previous experience it is worth making the effort to do nothing! Just be. Be silent and see what comes.