The expectation of waiting

A few days ago I watched a father who, having just taken a photo, immediately showed his camera's viewer to his toddler son. And I realised this boy will never grow up, as I did, with the expectation of having to wait weeks - months even; of having to use up a roll of film and get it developed, before finally being able to see the outcome of what had just been taken. Months after an event we might discover that heads had been chopped off, images blurred and people weren't smiling... now, we can see this straight away, and immediately take another photo if the first wasn't good enough.

Seeing this father and son made me realise just how much I had grown up with the expectation of waiting - and how much modern life and technology has changed this. Before mobile phones, if someone was late for a meeting, you just had to wait, not knowing what had happened to them or how long they would be: now, a couple of texts instantly puts that right. I grew up expecting to wait weeks for replies to letters: now, thanks to Facebook, I can have conversations with cousins and friends all over the world "in real time". Life has become more instant, more immediate, so that I wonder what's gone wrong if I don't get a reply to an email within a few days.

And yet, not everything is immediate - the poor certainly still have to wait. People come to the CAB (where I work) because the DWP or some other agency is keeping them waiting for urgently-needed money, or a response to an appeal. And when they come to the bureau they wait to be seen, sometimes impatiently, but mostly in quiet resignation. They are accustomed to waiting - or rather, to being kept waiting: even with mobile phones and technology, they still expect to wait for so many things.

Last week I wrote about wanting to live Advent as a time of waiting. I'm not sure if I'm doing that, but these days I certainly find myself reflecting more on what it means to wait, to choose to wait, to be kept waiting... and now, what it means to live with the expectation of waiting in a world in which so much is instant.