Lessons in Patience

Janet Sebastian-Coleman - Senegal


March 2, 2016

January 19th 2016

 

Rama turned the page in my book, “Ca c’est cent trieze”.

 

I look at the small number in the page corner, “O’o”, I flip back to the previous page, “ca c’est cent quinze, so…” I turn back to our page “Ca c’est cent… apres cent quinze, honnu aray?”.

 

Rama pauses and studies the three little numbers all lined up together, 116. “Cent seize!” She cries out. “Eyo!” I say and we both look to the facing page, 117.

 

We continue on and are solidly in the two-hundreds when a man strolls into the yard. I exchange the regular greetings but don’t pay him much mind as 232 is quite a difficult number and Rama and I need to reference page 132 to reach a conclusion.

 

The man takes a seat, Rama and I succeed, and we face the next challenge: page 233.

 

As Rama concentrates, the man asks what grade she is in. “CE1”, I answer, its the third level of elementary school. The man makes no answer and I contently flip the page for Rama.

 

The man remains silent until Rama is near drowning in the 260s. “She needs help,” he says condescendingly with a whip of impatience. This man and his silent watching has been creating a growing discomfort in me for a while, but by insulting my sister in front of her a true dislike rises within me. That is simply rude, mean, and unacceptable in my book.

 

Trying to hold my calm, I say quietly, steadily, “That’s what I’m doing”. Honestly, try saying Soixante over and over again, its no easy feat.

 

We reach the 290s: “When will she stop, 1000?”.

 

I don’t look up, “When she finishes the book”. I mean obviously, we’re clearly working through the book. I stubbornly keep my eyes to the page and my ears tuned to Rama.

 

I look up at some point in the three-hundreds and the man is gone. The family member he was looking for must have arrived or perhaps no one arrived and he simply left. I don’t remember his departure.

 

What I remember was this was one of the many times Rama had waited patiently for me to finish my chapter, mark my place, and close the book before quickly grabbing the book pointing to the barcode numbers and saying “Ca c’est six, ca c’est quatre”. That day we made it to page 324 in the Lord of the Rings before Rama was called off to help her mother.

 

The man was rather rude, and he may simply be a rude type of man but I now see his words reach deeper, they show he is ignorant of the beauty of slowness, the joy patience brings.

 

This year I have spent countless hours under the tree rolling a soccer ball back and forth with my brother, Moussa, at a distance of only a few feet. I have sat quietly with a small smile as a pile of neighborhood kids surround me, fighting over pencils for their chance to draw on scrap paper.

 

I can say living in a different pace of life this year has made a bus being late bother me less and my need to check the time lessen. But patience is more than a disregard of time or the absence of annoyance at slow, unproductive moments. Rather Patience is soaking in what at first appears to be long moments of nothing, or endless repetitions but can truly be the most rewarding beautiful moments of your day.

 

There’s freedom in long hot, slow afternoons: freedom to count to page three hundred twenty four; freedom to take a nap, wake up, and lay under the tree with your sister singing little songs to one another; freedom to pass a ball back and forth without pressure of “something more important” to be doing; freedom to learn spontaneously when the moment arrives.

 

There’s beauty in a long list of questions asked in greeting, all of which the only answer you need is Jam tun, “Peace only”; there’s beauty in watching learning happen minute by minute; there’s beauty in simply being with another person, no words necessary.

 

So to the man that said my little sister “needed help” in that patronizing tone: she has it, everyday, whenever she wants it. To the man who wanted Rama to hurry up and finish: learning is slow but its sacred, I felt a leap joy in every correctly read page number. Sisters grow and learn together. And the most learning and growing happens when you simply give the time, take the time, and accept the time.

 

Janet Sebastian-Coleman