Hopeful Patience

Anna Robertson was the third of 10 children.  As a young child, she loved to paint.  Coming from a poor family, she had to use natural materials instead of paint (e.g. grass, flour, lime, sawdust).  At the age of 12, she left home and began to work for wealthy families as a housekeeper.  Her love of painting had to be deferred.

Anna was married at the age of 27, and she and her husband operated farms.  She continued her interest in art and made pictures out of yarn.  She was also a quilter.

At the age of 76, Anna developed arthritis and could no longer embroider.  She decided to return to her first love of painting.  Arthritis was still a problem, so when her right hand hurt too much to paint, she used her left hand.  Her patience in pursuing her interest in painting began to flourish after a 70 year wait.

Eventually, Anna’s paintings drew the attention of collectors and her art works became the symbols of American holidays.  At the age of 88, Anna (now known as Grandma Moses) was selected by Mademoiselle Magazine as its “Young Woman of the Year.”  In 1969, a U.S. postage stamp featured one of her paintings.  When she died at the age of 101, she was memorialized by President Kennedy.

Grandma Moses’ life is more than a story of art.  It is also a story of hopeful patience.  She had an obvious love of and talent for painting.  But she realized that she needed to defer her own hopes and interests to support her family.

Hopeful patience seems to have become a personal trait that is in short supply.  We change jobs frequently because another job appears more attractive.  Divorce rates have continued to rise.  We have little patience with employees who don’t perform to our satisfaction.  We are not very forgiving of those who made mistakes in their past.

Albert Einstein summarized his thoughts on hopeful patience when he said:  “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”  You have to wonder how many great opportunities were lost because of our lack of hopeful patience.  How many discoveries were delayed by years because we were not patient enough to pursue our original thoughts?  How many promising careers were damaged because we weren’t patient enough to mentor underperformers?  What talent has gone unseen because those with the talent were not willing to stick with it?

The lack of hopeful patience is not just a personal failing.  Organizations and governments are remarkably impatient.  We seem to want instant success that we can use to bolster our standing with others.  The phrase, “Patience is a virtue,” is believed to have originated in the 3rd century.  Do we still believe that patience is a lack of hope in patience?

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“One moment of patience may ward off great disaster.  One moment of impatience may ruin a whole life.”  – Chinese proverb

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