Why are we waiting? The struggle to remain patient…

Queuing traffic

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Question: are you good at waiting? I’m sure there are particular situations that trigger your own levels of impatience: whether it’s a traffic jam, or the gates to the level crossing coming down just as your car approaches, or your kids asking “are we nearly there yet?” twenty minutes into a four-hour car journey. Alternatively, perhaps it’s waiting for the release date of the next season of a popular television show, or a new album from your favourite band. Maybe you’re waiting for something right now: to hear about the outcome of a job application, or an exam, or a medical investigation. Whilst the catalyst may be different for each of us, there will be something that tries even the most patient of individuals.

I confess, I am not the world’s most patient person. As a frequent user of public transport, waiting for a bus that should have turned up already is a particular trigger for my impatience. When the person at the front of the queue at the supermarket checkout is chatting away merrily to the cashier about anything and everything, seemingly oblivious to the line of increasingly frustrated people behind them, I may become ever-so-slightly intolerant. (Of course, being British, I demonstrate my frustration in a slight roll of the eyes, or a tapping foot, or an exaggerated sigh, rather than actually saying, “please could you hurry up?”)

Personally, I find it easier to wait when I have a specific deadline: I know when my birthday is, for example, so I don’t feel particularly impatient for it to arrive. (Although, maybe that’s just because I’m getting older!) However, when the waiting time is unspecified, that’s when I find it most difficult to remain patient. There’s something about not knowing how long you’re going to be waiting for something that makes it harder to bear, especially when it’s something you’re eagerly anticipating.

This is the exact situation in which many Restore residents find themselves, when they are waiting to be offered a tenancy of their own. For some, the process happens incredibly quickly, whereas others can be waiting months to be offered a suitable property. I feel for these residents, because they are fully ready to move on and start the next chapter of their life, but it’s out of their control when that page will turn and they’ll get the go-ahead to move out of our shared accommodation and into a place of their own. It’s understandable that this waiting period can lead to feelings of frustration and despondency, and our housing support team work hard to help residents maintain a positive mental attitude, keep up the momentum of bidding on council properties and preparing for that moment when they are offered a set of keys to a flat.

There are lots of things that residents in this situation can be doing to help prepare themselves for the moment when they are finally offered a property. We’ve recently produced a tenancy training booklet to give to residents in this situation, with a range of handy hints and tips to help residents prepare for moving on. For example, trying to set aside a portion of their income and create a savings pot helps build financial security. Sitting down with a housing support worker to identify a monthly budget and work out what they will be able to afford to spend after rent and bills helps to reduce anxiety around moving on and promotes fiscal responsibility. Buying low-cost items that are easily stored and that they know they will need when they move from Restore into their own place (such as bedding and towels) helps prepare for moving day. Tackling these jobs ahead of time means that when the offer of an independent tenancy comes, the transition is smoother and the new property begins to feel like home right from day one.

There are, of course, people waiting at the start of the journey, too. We have a list of potential Restore residents in various forms of temporary accommodation, but we can’t offer any of them a place in one of our properties until a room is vacated. We try to ensure the turn-around time between residents is kept as short as possible, so that when a Restore room becomes available, it is cleaned and prepared for a new occupant. Residents often remark on how life in a Restore property is calm and feels like a real home.

Once someone has moved into one of our houses, we can begin the work of supporting them on their journey back to independent living. One of the first things their allocated housing supporter worker does with each new resident is work out a bespoke support plan, identifying what needs and goals an individual has and an anticipated timeframe for addressing them during their time at Restore. To do this, we use a method called ‘outcomes star.’ During the first support session, resident and support worker go through the following list of areas and the resident scores their current need in each one on a scale from 1-10; 1 being completely stuck in that area and needing a great deal of help to overcome it, 10 being fully satisfied in that area and needing no help. The categories are:

  • Motivation and taking responsibility
  • Self-care and living skills
  • Money management
  • Social networks and relationships
  • Drug/alcohol misuse
  • Physical health
  • Emotional and mental health
  • Meaningful use of time
  • Managing tenancy/accommodation
  • Offending

The resident’s responses are then mapped onto a ten-pointed star chart (each point of the star representing one category), with a score of 1 being marked closest to the centre of the star and a score of 10 marked on the extremity of the star point. This helps the support worker and resident identify which areas of life are most critical to work on to improve the score in that area. The outcome star is reviewed frequently during their time at Restore, with the goal being to help each resident score themselves more highly across all categories at the end of their time with us than they did at the beginning. This process helps to generate an action plan with specific goals, objectives and timescales. Having a time frame to work towards, whilst not set in stone, can help residents to overcome the feelings of impatience and frustration, as they can not only look forward at the goals ahead of them, but also reflect on how far they have already come. The outcomes star model is a useful visual representation of their progress, as residents can see their star ‘expanding’ as their score in each category increases. The ability to reflect back on their journey thus far can be useful, especially at times when waiting for the next step is proving difficult.

Waiting is a common theme in the Bible, too. Noah had to wait 150 days after the rain had ended for the flood waters to recede, before he could leave the ark (Genesis:8). The Israelites waited generations for God to free them from slavery in Egypt and lead them to the promised land (Exodus:2). They waited hundreds of years for God to send the promised Messiah (Matthew:1). Jesus’ followers were instructed to wait in Jerusalem for the promised Holy Spirit (Acts:1). The church is awaiting the return of Christ, and we don’t know whether He will come back tomorrow, or in a thousand years’ time; in fact, the Bible states that:

“To the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years is as one day. The Lord is not slow in doing what He promised—the way some people understand slowness. But God is being patient with you. He does not want anyone to be lost.” (2 Peter chapter 3, verses 8-9, New Century Version [2]).

So, when patience is running low, take heart: God is waiting too. He’s waiting for us to realise how much He loves us. How much we need Him. How much he has already done for us. Where we may find it difficult to wait, God has enough patience to see one thousand years as like just one day. His patience is greater than we can ever imagine.

Waiting isn’t always easy. It can be frustrating, disappointing and even painful. But it is crucial to remember that God’s timing is always perfect, so – whatever it is we’re waiting for -, we can rest assured that He is always trustworthy, always working for our good, and always faithful.

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[1] Cover Image by wal_172619 from Pixabay

[2] https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2%20Peter%203&version=NCV