Recently, I took a much-needed trip to Runaway Bay, Jamaica with a group of twenty or so friends to celebrate the birthdays of those of us who turned 30 this year. On our second day there, we were antsy to get off of the resort to get some souvenirs and to experience more of the local flavor. Fortunately, we ended up making a resort-buddy who’d been there several times before and was nice enough to arrange and pay for a local driver to take six of us shopping in nearby Ocho Rios. As we prepared to leave, we confirmed with each other that we should spend no more than a couple of hours shopping if we were to be back in time to get dressed for a planned dinner with the others in our group. Our driver arrived on island-time – i.e., almost 20 minutes later than he had promised – so we were a bit peeved that we’d have even less shopping time, but figured we’d still make a go of it. The driver dropped us off in a bustling marketplace in the center of Ocho Rios, agreeing to meet us back at that exact spot in an hour and a half. the six of us split up into ones and twos and went off in search of our souvenirs. Needless to say, the time passed quickly, and as my shopping partner and I made our way back to the pre-determined meeting spot, we could tell there was trouble brewing.
Amidst the hustle and bustle of the market, the other four girls in our crew were all too easy to spot. Each of their faces was painted with frustration as they moved anxiously among the parked vehicles and other shoppers. When we got close enough to ask what was going on, they informed us that our driver was nowhere in sight and that if he didn’t show up soon we’d be late for our dinner back at the resort.
I did a quick mental assessment of the situation – if we were late, we’d be late. But we’d still have dinner when we got there, we’d only miss a part of the festivities, and we’d all be together. As I considered the relatively low impact of our predicament, the other girls continued scurrying about the vans in the market in a frantic search for our driver or any other driver that could get us back to our resort.
By now our little group had begun to draw attention from some of the gypsy shuttle drivers in the area, and I could see two of the girls engaged in conversation with one of them who’d taken notice of us.
By now our little group had begun to draw attention from some of the gypsy shuttle drivers in the area, and I could see two of the girls engaged in conversation with one of them who’d taken notice of us. They soon came over and reported the news: “This guy says he can take us back right now for $15 each”. Before I could adequately voice my shock that we were seriously considering forking over $90 for about a 10-mile trip, two of the market security guards approached us. “Ladies, are you looking for your driver? We know him. We can get in contact with him for you.” A flurry of patois then ensued between the two guards and the driver, an older gentleman. I could only make out about every third word, but it was clear he was not pleased that the guards were cutting in on his action. While one of the security guards continued trading invectives with the older guy, the other one began dialing numbers on his cell phone. My friends and I were literally caught in the middle. Seeing the opportunity to land a fare slipping away from him, the older gent turned to the two in our group he’d first spoken with. “Okay, I’ll take you now for $10 each and tip.” They quickly accepted and jumped into his van, motioning for the rest of us to do the same. By this time, I think we were all well past the point of frustration, so to keep the situation from escalating any further, we filed into the van and left the guards standing there holding their phones.
As our new driver pulled out onto the road, he gave us his take on the matter. “Those guys were calling one of their friends – they just wanted to make some money off of you.” So the guards were a couple of hustlers…great. I couldn’t help but think that the older guy’s intentions weren’t necessarily the most honorable, either. I mean, he hadn’t exactly acted out of a sense of charity – he wanted to get paid, too. I sat in the back of the van, fuming over what I considered to be an absolute affront to my frugality and common-sense. Basically, we’d agreed to give this guy $60 (plus tip) for a trip that’s equivalent to going from the Atlanta airport to downtown. I heavy-sighed and leaned my face against the window next to my seat.
The road back to Runaway Bay took us past rural scenes typical of the islands – goats and barefoot kids running around unattended in front yards, young men walking or standing on the side of the road drinking beers or selling fruit, middle-aged women toting parcels balanced on swaying hips or atop heads. As each scene rolled by, it simultaneously calmed me and made me really ponder the events that had just unfolded. I was struck by the contrast of the scenes passing by the window and the previous scene of me and my friends at the marketplace. I compared the anxious looks on my friends’ faces to the faces we passed – these people were all moving somewhere, yet they looked like they had all the time in the world to get there. Then it hit me, they had something we did not – patience.
Phrases like ‘no problem’, ‘everything irie’, and ‘soon come’ are the default Jamaican responses to most issues that arise. Each of those sayings not only conveys a sense of inherent patience but also faith that things will work out as they should if you just step back and let them. If you insist on getting an immediate result – you’ll usually get it. God’s answer is ever ‘yes’ – he may let you have what you want, but it may not necessarily be the best that he has in store for you. When he allows you to have the best, it will usually be the very last thing that comes along (i.e., you always find what you’re searching for in the last place that you look). Patience and faith go hand-in-hand: if you have the faith to ask, then you should also have the patience to wait for the response.
For the rest of the drive I meditated on times that I’ve let my own or someone else’s impatience get the best of me – and what the results of that were. As we hopped off the van back at the resort, I found myself humming the chorus to one of my favorite Outkast songs:
“just keep your faith in me,
don’t act impatiently
you’ll get where you need to be
in due time”
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Father, today I pray for increased patience and strengthened faith. I possess the knowledge that you are the source of all things and that my birthright is eternal and uninhibited access to that source. Help me to have more than just an intellectual understanding of this birthright, remind me to act it out as truth in every thing that I do, in every word that I speak.