“Attention, Attention, Must Finally Be Paid.”
This memorable line from “Death of a Salesman” speaks a truth every bit as important today as it was when Arthur Miller penned those words for Willy Loman’s wife Linda to draw attention to her husband’s needs. It may, in fact, be more universally true now than it was then.
Just think of the ways young and old alike communicate today. From impersonal electronic devices that vie for our attention every waking moment, to bumper stickers that broadcast alliances and attitudes, our need to be recognized and really listened to has never been greater.
Attention is a priceless gift that doesn’t cost a cent, but most of us seldom give it away. Why not? Are we too busy or are we too needy ourselves to see that need in others?
Paying attention is a giant leap, made up of many small steps, that all of us can take toward learning how to give fearlessly. Here are three to get us started:
- Turn your cell phone off during face-to-face discussions and actually look at the person you are talking to. Then respond to their comments with a question inviting them to say more instead of rushing in to talk about your experiences or your problems whenever he or she pauses to take a breath.
- Once or twice a week, sit down, pick up a pen and write a brief note to someone you know who is sick, or lonesome, or struggling with some aspect of their life. Put the note in an envelope, add an address and a stamp (you don’t even have to lick them these days), and entrust your missive to the postal service. Through the rain, the snow, or blistering heat postal employees still deliver the mail and hand-written notes are treasures to the recipients.
- Take time to play checkers or have a tea party with a child, and while you are spending time together, encourage them to tell you about their day at school or what they like to do for fun. And if a child is grieving it can often help to ask, “Are you feeling sad?”
Little ones need to be heard and recognized as much as we do, but their needs are far too often overlooked. Matthew 19 includes the note that people brought little children to Jesus but his disciples turned them away. Jesus responded to their action saying, “Let the children alone, and do not stop them from coming to me.”
Whether Jesus was talking to children, to outcasts, or to the hurting men and women who crowded around him seeking to be made whole, He modeled for us how to give the gift of attention.
Given the enormous impact on our recent elections of the cry for attention from people who felt they weren’t being heard, do we dare do any less?
May 2017 become the year in which you learn to pray fearlessly, live fearlessly, and daily give fearlessly the gift of attention.
Blessings for the Journey,