Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone.
I have a soft spot for antiques – even when they aren’t necessarily so functional. When my daughter was eight years old and until she turned 11, her clothes were kept in a dresser that used to belong to my great-grandfather. I don’t know exactly how old it was, but probably at least 70 years old. We had waxed the boards so they would slide more easily, but time and weathering had distorted the wood so that it really didn’t match up anymore. It was a pain to open and close.
Every morning as she was getting dressed and every night as she was changing into her pajamas, she would struggle with that old dresser. Some days it would driver her to distraction, frustration and even tears. I would walk into her room to see her tugging and tugging on the dresser drawer and it wouldn’t budge. Each time this happened I would say to her, “When what you’re doing isn’t working, try something different. Don’t just sit there and do the same thing over and over until you’ve worked yourself into a frenzy.” Then, instead of struggling against the drawer like she had been doing, I gave into the drawer and pushed. It was the going in the opposite direction of where my daughter wanted the drawer, but by pushing in, I was able to loosen up the jam and then I could level the drawer and pull out again. For most of those three years with that old dresser, I believed that the day would soon come when she was old enough to be able to get the dresser open without frustration.
Going in and out wasn’t the only problem the dresser had. Periodically the bottoms would start to fall off of the drawers. About every six months my husband would have to pull out the clothes and take a hammer to the dresser to put it back into shape. Even though I did have to come to my daughter’s rescue quite often, I seemed to be the only one who wasn’t bothered by the old dresser. In retrospect I can recall all the trouble it was, but it really never occurred to me to buy a new one. Occasionally my husband and daughter would say that we needed a new chest of drawers. I just balked at that. No way! That dresser held clothes as well as any other and besides, it had sentimental value and was a cherished antique. Their struggling against me in the matter was fruitless.
Then one day when I was contemplating what to get my daughter for her 11th birthday, and the idea of a new dresser came to mind. In a moment all their silent suffering hit me. Why in the world had I made them endure this old piece of furniture for so long? I had a stack of snapshots in my mind of my daughter struggling with the drawer, avoiding putting away her clothes until I would come in to open the drawer and my husband with hammer in hand and a look of frustration on his face as he pounded the bottoms back in place yet again. All of a sudden I felt so guilty for having ignored all the signs for so long, for having been blinded by my frugality, love of antiques and my attachment to an old pile of wood my grandparents used to own. Had they even liked this dresser? I wondered if the dresser gave them problems too. Maybe they had put it in a storage room on account of its ill-fitting drawers!
When my daughter came home from her ball game on the day of her birthday and saw her new dresser, already in place with clothes put away, she had a look of pure joy on her face. It took a long time – too long – but her longsuffering paid off. She had taken my advice after all. Trying to persuade me to buy a new dresser wasn’t going to work, so instead of continuing to do that until she worked herself into a frenzy, she just gave in – and it paid off.
There are a lot more riveting stories of patience and perseverance paying off – like the women’s suffrage movement, the civil rights movement, freedom movements against colonial governments – and in your life, there will be many more important stories than the one of the old wooden dresser.With patience and a gentle spirit, you can right big wrongs like prejudices, negative outlooks and wrong behavior.
Just like my daughter was helpless to solve the problem herself – she couldn’t go out and buy a new dresser – many of the things you want to see changed will not be your decisions to make. You can make your wishes known, but if the answer comes back, “no,” then patience and a gentle spirit are your best tools with which to eventually effect change.
Hold this thought: When force won’t open the drawer, try giving in.