“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?