I believe in waiting. The wait is often inconvenient, heartbreaking, and unjust. But I have found that anticipation and hardship also provide the conclusive moment with greater clarity and meaning. I experienced these feelings three times this past fall.
The first time was when my daughter was born. She came into this world right when she was due, showing a good sense of timing. But for my wife and two older children, the nine months had been long, and we were tired of waiting to see if it was a boy or a girl. We were tempted to find out, but the experience of a sonogram technician saying, “Congratulations, it’s a girl!” must be vastly different from the moment when I looked at my child for the very first time, and saw with my own eyes, in the flesh, that it was a she. There are precious few moments in life when so much uncertainty is so quickly clarified, and embracing it made the most miraculous experience in my life even more momentous and life-changing.
The second time I cried this fall was when the Phillies won the World Series. Brad Lidge struck out the batter on a wicked slider that dropped at exactly the right moment, just after he decided to swing yet before his bat could connect with the ball. However, the outcome of this game was delayed 50 hours because of too much rain. Two days was not that long compared to 28 years, the last time a major Philadelphia sports team had won it all. I was so excited when the Phillies won in 1980, but I was not allowed to go to the parade because I was too young. I was not upset because I figured that the Phillies would win again soon. The Flyers had recently won two championships, and I was young and naïve. Over the course of the next two long decades, I got my optimism beaten out of me, and I admit that I got tired of waiting and wavered in my devotion to the team. My friends and I would talk more about the stunts we pulled at games, like running onto the field and sliding on the tarps during another rain delay, than about the games themselves. But when the Phillies finally won it all again, I had a much greater appreciation for those games when the baseball was not as memorable as the antics of my friends.
The third time I cried this fall was when Barack Obama won the Presidential election. That evening, my son kept asking when we would know who won, but he could not wait for the announcement and soon fell asleep. His wait was nothing compared to how long people concerned about individual rights and the role of African Americans in U.S. history had been waiting to fulfill the promise of the founding ideals of this nation expressed in 1776. Over the course of the next 232 years, we had a written constitution, amendments, a war, boycotts, sit-ins, numerous fights and many sacrifices. Finally, the election of someone to the presidency with a different skin color from all of the other presidents provided the truest, most genuine evidence in my lifetime of the promise of equality in this nation.
I do not believe in delaying difficult change or waiting just to increase an event’s poignancy. But the wait is a part of all aspects of life, and it served a purpose in mine. Difficult seasons and dangerous struggles produce heroic individuals and acts of physical and moral courage that for better and worse make up who we are as a people and a society. I am overjoyed that my child was born into a world in which what once seemed impossible was now history, to be studied and cheered. And I have learned to remind myself that sometimes the only thing I can do is to wait for it. Of course, when my wife and I had to decide if my six-year old son was old enough to go to the parade, you can bet we let him go.