Pay Attention When I Talk to You

It’s not uncommon in our staff meetings for half the table to be dressed with laptops.  I generally never bring a laptop to the meeting.  If I do, everyone knows that I have something else to get done and that I won’t really be at the meeting until the screen is closed.  They all know that I suspect the same of them as well.

My suspicions proved true when, at a recent meeting, one of our coworkers slid her fingers to the play button on her mac.  We heard four seconds of a tune.  We laughed.  She blushed.  She closed her macbook.  I will not identify the person but I will say she has strong ties to music, especially of the classical and worship varieties.  I thought about paying attention when she blushed and closed her computer.  I think about it when I sit and collect images of people talking to each other at Little Black Pearl or Istria or at some random restaurant.  I watch them. 

When a person pays attention, their bodies tell you.  Eyes tracking with the other’s.  Faces full of smiles.  Sometimes lips spread into a small ‘o’ as they hear what has to be an interesting story.  Elbows resting on a table.  Backs slouching against chairs.  A hand placed on top of someone else’s.  Shaking heads.  Tears.  An elbow placed on a table, a hand pressing a phone to an ear.

It’s bodily exercise, giving someone your attention, your focus. 

Giving attention is special.  It marks that moment or that exchange as important and valuable.  You give something away with attention, something that can’t be traded.  Paying attention, as economic as that metaphor is, is something that can’t be bought or sold or bartered.  But it carries great value, doesn’t it?

I once heard my wife say something about people wanting to be seen.  People want to be seen.  People, in good ways, want attention.  So give it or pay it or lavish it.  If you’re tempted to do two things at once and one of those things involves people, pick the one activity where a person is physically present.  Your physical and emotional presence will turn into actual presence.  Show up.  Be there, where you are, and enjoy giving something away.

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8 thoughts on “Pay Attention When I Talk to You

  1. Did you and/or your wife see the movie Avatar? They have this great line in there “I see you.” that’s about far more than the optical phenomenon of visual sight.

  2. I love this, Pastor Michael. Being fully present is not only difficult, but becoming less and less common in our society. I struggle with it, even to the point of handing my phone to a friend when I sit down to have lunch with them. “Here. Hide this. I’d rather be with you.” Thanks for the reminder – and the challenge.

  3. Thank you for this reminder to be outward-focused. For someone as self-centered as I am, listening and being present are my biggest challenges on any given day.

  4. You could even take this a step further and say that it’s difficult just to be in the present moment even when other people are not around…we are constantly reminiscing or regretting the past or looking towards the future…I struggle everyday to live in the moment to live in the here and now…

  5. Andrew, I’m ashamed to say we haven’t seen Avatar but we will. I’ll add it to my que.

    Laura and Lea and Byron, you all are right on. No matter when the moment is, it’s difficult giving ourselves to it. Like being here right now will cause us to miss something. It’s not a loss when we give in general but it always feels that way.

  6. I recently went to dinner with a friend. We were in the bar area waiting to be seated. Everyone was texting and talking on their wireless. I commented to my friend what was the point of these people coming to a restaurant; they could have ordered in and gone to separate rooms to text and talk
    A few visits ago to Chicago I was taken to a restaurant and the hostess said, “We have a no cell phone rule…it must be off and put away.”
    I am prayerful the “no cell phone rule” will become law so people can get back to eye contact, body language, laughing, talking and enjoying each other’s company.
    GREAT POST MICHAEL WASHINGTON!

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