What If Today…You Paid Attention?

“There isn’t any formula or method. You learn to love by loving-by paying attention and doing what one thereby discovers has to be done.” ~Aldous Huxley

In this post  I want to focus on two situations when paying attention can change the flow of life.

The first is in a situation where a problem arises.

It was 2:30 and I had places to go and people to see, but the party attendees were sitting in the foyer on benches upstairs next to their presents that seemed to me to be as anxious to get the party started as their owners. I asked if we were with the right party and they said yes but the door to the pool was locked. Everyone was waiting.

Progress was stopped. Tension like water against a dam was growing.

So my daughter and I walked down to the pool after announcing to the group that all you had to was knock and someone would  surely let us in. (I make things up a lot and pray that everything works out!)

One man sat up straight, gathered his presents and said, “I’m going with her!”

Shoot! What if I couldn’t produce? Apprehension aside, we kept walking until we reached the locked glass door.

That was easy! A minute later we were past the barrier and I was walking back to my car and my daughter was getting ready for a two-hour swim party.

I don’t wait well unless there is no other alternative.

I’m surprised by how many times I’ve seen people put up with things, thinking there is no other choice.

I have to admit that as exhilarating as it feels to solve problems, it’s also pretty uncomfortable sometimes. I’ve learned that you shouldn’t always step in and take over because there’s usually someone who only needs a little support to do their job. Maybe they’re having a crisis that’s unrelated to the present situation. Perhaps they’re already working on a solution.

So,  I’ve learned to ask a lot of questions that calm down or evaporate my assumptions.

Who’s in charge?

How can I help without stepping on anyone’s toes?

What skills or talents do I have that I could use in this situation that could benefit the group?

Is courage and decision-making all that’s required right now?

Sometimes I conclude that my help isn’t needed. “They’re all set”, as we say in the Northeast.

There is a need for people to pay attention to how they uniquely fit in to the flow of life – their own, their family’s, their community, their workplace, etc.

The second place where paying attention can make or break a life is with living things like people and pets.

Have you heard of the true story, “Cipher in the Snow”,  by Jean Mizer? Here’s a brief synopsis (Wikipedia):

“The story is about an ostracized teenager, Cliff Evans, who following his parents’ divorce has no friends and becomes a completely withdrawn “cipher“. Then on a school bus, he asks to be let off, and collapses and dies in the snow near the roadside. His school’s math teacher is asked to notify his parents and write the obituary. Though listed as Cliff’s favorite teacher, he recalls that he hardly knew him. After getting a delegation to go to the funeral – it’s impossible to find ten people who knew him well enough to go – the teacher resolves never to let this happen to another child in his charge. It is implied that his death was because no one loved him.”

Last week it hit me that our cat might not be coming home. He’d been gone almost a week. We’d been warned of coyotes stealing and killing neighbors’ cats as soon as we moved in in September.

I don’t have a problem with death and dying, mourning or grieving. I’ve accepted those things as uncontrollable parts of life.

But regret is another animal.

My mind kept focusing on my beautiful and loving cat who often sat at my feet purring. I had taken his presence for granted and I prayed my heart out to be given a second chance to pay attention to him-to stop when he crossed my path, acknowledge him, and spend some time with him. My children were all convinced he was dead and gone, but I asked them each to pray for Yueng to come home if it was possible.

I had my doubts. But I had an intense desire to be forgiven of my ingratitude.

Two days later, at 5:15 am, I heard a scratching at my front door that literally made me jump from my chair because I knew he had come home. I was in tears. I was getting a second chance, and so were my children. I woke my daughter up minutes later and she lay for an hour on the floor with him as he slept, obviously exhausted and at peace in his own home.

In short, paying attention changes the quality of our lives.

I believe that it is a learned habit and an essential characteristic of leadership.

What do you think?

  • Has paying attention made a difference in your life or someone else’s life?
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8 thoughts on “What If Today…You Paid Attention?

  1. One of the challenges about the online extension of our world and life… is that we can spread ourselves too thin and then we end of giving insufficient attention to everyone. Or not as much as people may demand.

    Giving attention to everything may not be possible – so I would be inclined to suggest that the leadership characteristic would be attending to people according to present priorities and circumstances – not to mention giving attention wholeheartedly but also as efficiently as possible.

  2. When it comes to online activities I completely agree. That’s one I am working out as we speak.
    When I wrote this I was honestly thinking about how I feel so overwhelmed by everything to the point of not paying attention to what’s going on right around me as well as I think I could. And that felt terrible. My cat going away was really a huge wake-up call for me (silly to some people maybe!).
    I’ve also had a number of experiences lately that have made me ponder groups of people and how someone always steps up to the plate in a catastrophe. It might take a little time for that to happen, but it’s fun to watch.
    I think everyone has opportunities to observe a situation and see where they can help. I think daily on the victims of the recent storm, Sandy, and I wonder how people are organizing themselves and looking out for each other. I learned yesterday that a group of men from our church up here are gong down to New Jersey to help. Obviously someone had to have thought, “What can we do?” and followed through and created a plan of action. I love that!
    Thanks for coming by, Stan

  3. Hmmm..paying attention..I think I am pretty good at that..or I try to be..most times it seems to be just a matter of using common sense, and that thing of being willing to jump in and lend a hand! Now cats?! Love them, have had way to many over the years, but they are a creature all of their own. I always had faith when mine went out that it would come home, only one did not, ever. One showed up 7 years later!

    As Always ~*~

    • We had a cat, Clyde, who would leave for months at a time and come back wounded and worn. I loved that cat. We had a dog, Spice, who was stolen one day. I was really little, but I remember being told that if I held my breath and lifted my feet (we were in a car) whenever we went over the railroad tracks, my wish would come true. I did that at least 2x’s a day for years! I’m not superstitious anymore, but it stuck with me that some things, like animals coming home, aren’t going to happen.

      You seem like you’d be one to jump in and “get the party started”, Ann! I have to admit that there are times I’m just as happy talking in a foyer instead of getting somewhere else and getting something done! So there’s a fine line between wisdom and impatience…something like that.
      See ya ’round!

    • Thank you, Brian! At this moment in my little life, it was a grand event that’ll go down in the “Epic Prayer That Was Answered With an ‘Okay. Yes for This One, But Don’t Get Spoiled” book.
      I actually do have a little book where I memorialize things that are ordinary to some, but are evidence to me of the Divine in my day. It’s a step up from a gratitude journal for me. I wrote “Remember” on the cover. This one’s in there now. I’ll make an attempt to paste a picture here of Yueng and Buddy (he died last year-hit by a car). We adopted the 2 brothers from 2 young beer connoisseurs. Buddy=Budweiser. Yueng= Yueng Ling (?). We laughed when we got them ’cause we don’t drink. The names suit them.
      Took me a few minutes, but I made a page with two pictures on it (look at the top of the post. It should be there.)
      Thanks for asking, Brian.

    • Gina!!!! Thank you for saying what I REALLY intended to say! It takes writing, talking, and thinking to get to what is at the bottom of it all. I almost came back a few times yesterday to rewrite it bothered me so much. But that would have been confusing! So…here you are with a wonderful segue to some final (or beginning) thoughts.
      Do we here “I’m fine” and walk away or stay and probe deeper with more meaningful questions? Do we understand human nature and that little elf called Pride who sits on peoples’ shoulders and whispers, “Don’t tell her.You’ll look weak, stupid, needy, irresponsible, to old, too young.”…you get the gist of it. You can sense it. Can’t you? When someone needs help, needs to talk, or needs someone to share a burden, and their countenance speaks the words that their mouths force way down deep into their guts. You can see it.
      How often do we have the courage to push past that barrier or gently coax it down?
      Gina, have you done that before? What do you do to create the trust that’ll open a person up to your service? Please come back if you can and tell me. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Thank you!!

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