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Lynn Hummel column: Move it, lady!

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We were driving in slow traffic, waiting at a stoplight. Finally the light turned green and the car ahead of us just sat there. Then we heard a voice from the back seat -- "move it lady!" That was the voice of our eight-year-old son Buckwheat. I couldn't scold him and his mother Raquel could do nothing but chuckle. The kid had just recited one of his dad's most common expressions in slow moving traffic.

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Job waited seven years and I couldn't wait seven seconds. And my suffering was nothing compared to Job's. But now, as then, I need more patience in traffic. I don't honk my horn, I don't gesture and I don't engage in road rage, but I do express opinions inside my own car about drivers who don't signal for turns, drivers who make it difficult or impossible for the car behind them to get through the intersection or make a left turn, drivers who tailgate, drivers who are paying more attention to their cell phones than to the traffic and other varieties of inattentive or selfish drivers. I caught myself doing it again just yesterday.

Shakespeare described those of us without patience: "How poor are they that have no patience! What wound did ever heal but by degrees?" The thinkers and philosophers all praise patience: "A handful of patience is worth more than a bushel of brains" (Dutch proverb); "Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience" (Ralph Waldo Emerson); "He that can have patience can have what he will" (Benjamin Franklin). But I say they overstate the case. In the style of Ecclesiastes ("There is a time to be born and a time to die.") I would sum it up this way: There is a time to be patient and a time to be impatient. Patience is a virtue. Too much patience is a fault.

When is the time to be patient? The main time to be patient is with our families. Spilled milk used to upset me, especially when it was spilled as a result of obnoxious behavior at the table. But I was a milk spiller myself. It used to bug me when a kid would put a big glob of ketchup on her plate then leave 90 percent of it. Waste! Or take too much food and leave half. Waste! But just today I took too much food and left part of it. Waste, but I'm pretty good at pacing myself with ketchup now. It still amazes me how little judgment kids have. They run out into the street without looking and they just don't anticipate obvious (to adults) danger. Day after day we have to guide them along, one step at a time. Love requires patience.

But there is a time to be impatient with kids too: lying, cheating and stealing are three good examples and so is any sort of deliberate misconduct (like intentionally pouring milk on a carpet while looking dad straight in the eye). That's the time for firmness -- tough love. (You may note at this point that I have an abundance of ideas about raising children now that our own children have left home, grown up and have children of their own).

It is most difficult to be patient in political matters. It is difficult to be patient in a campaign that goes on forever and ever and it is difficult to be patient with candidates who take the low road in campaigning. But there are some parameters. If a congressional term is two years, we can be patient with a congressperson for about a year and a half. Then when the two year term is up, if the job isn't done to our satisfaction -- out. Senate terms are six years, but it's hard to be patient that long. A presidential term is four years, with two four-year terms being the maximum. We should only be patient for 3½ years with a president, then start thinking about a replacement. As for political parties -- are they interested in working for us or just interested in working against one another? We show too much patience with our political parties, even our favorites.

There is a time to be patient and a time to be impatient with ourselves as well. Some of us are too hard on ourselves, and some of us tend to excuse all our faults as not really our fault at all, because "that's just me." There must be a happy medium somewhere, but I don't pretend to know where it is.

The bottom line is this: with our families, love, patience and forgiveness must never end. As for others, trust your neighbor, but be sure to tie up your camel. If your neighbor betrays you once, shame on him. If he betrays you twice, shame on you.

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