Skip To Main Content
Patience Obtains All Things
  • Formation
  • Wellness
Renee Polka

Moi, Perpignan, aujourd hui

Me, Perpignan, today.

These were the three words I could confidently say arriving to the train station at Charles De Gaul airport in Paris. I had graduated from college and was accepted to a program through the French Ministry of Education to teach English to elementary school students. Even better, the assignment was in the sunny Mediterranean town of Perpignan in Southwest France. 

When I called home (from a pay phone) to share my misadventures in the crummy hostel, my father insisted I use the “emergency credit card” to find a hotel for some good night’s sleep. I learned to take a couple deep breaths before I spoke and jot down key French words when apartment hunting. There were missteps, trains strikes, and “lost in translation” moments.

More than the immersive crash course in French culture, baked goods (of which I did intensive research!), and the European rail system, it was a lesson in patience. As Saint Teresa of Avila wrote, patience obtains all things. Life as a young adult can be hard. Life in a foreign place felt even harder - but that made every success that much sweeter. Opening a bank account, making meaningful friendships, and even chatting up my landlady about current events en francais felt like tiny wins that slowly started to accumulate. I returned to the US the following year feeling like I could do anything, it was just a matter of giving myself the time and the grace.

I am still in the business of jumping into new roles (like joining the Development Office at Saint Constantine where I also teach third grade PE!) and moving to new places (Hello, Houston!). Taking on risk and facing hard things requires flexing that patience and perseverance muscle, only now the stakes are higher and our culture of “right now” makes this even more difficult. Sometimes “hard things” are simply skills we set out to master; sometimes they are broken hearts, financial situations, or health scares that are outside of our control.

Patience obtains all things, I remind myself. 

Recently, one of my PE students was counting how many hulas around she could make with the hula hoop. She went from three motions to six before the hula hoop would fall to the ground. I reminded her that doubling the amount was a huge improvement. “Yes, but Miss Polka, I know I can do more!” as she doggedly set about finding her rhythm.

Whether my students are engaged in a fierce game of Sharks and Minnows or breaking personal records, they are in the low stakes stage of training for hard things. It is my joy to encourage and challenge them as they play and run. I smiled at my young student’s comment. I know she will do more. All these young souls will.

The days may be long, but patience obtains all things.