Our attention spans, where have they gone?
Our interest in others, how do we demonstrate it?
Most of us either distracted, or in a rush, may find ourselves exhaling our busy lives away. It seems like we barely have time to meet someone for coffee, to catch up over lunch, never mind dinner. How many people are we passing by, assuming they’re fine and not taking the time to ask beyond the polite and now perfunctory, “How are you?”
I find it ironic that in a Facebook era where we have hundreds, perhaps even thousands of supposed “friends,” we rarely make time to sit face-to-face and have an authentic conversation. We are so “connected” electronically, but I would venture to say, less “connected” emotionally.
When something happens to jolt us, and reminds us how temporary life is, it’s amazing how we then clear our calendars for what matters most. When this happens, we rediscover that it’s not the “busyness” of our days that wins out, but rather the "people" we cherish and want to make time for.
Essentially, all that really matters are the “people” matters. We must connect with people—Even small connections are vital. But we must share meaningful exchanges, instead of the mindless weather chatter.
My daughter bought some flowers for our neighbor, Ms. Ellen, now in her seventies, whose birthday was Wednesday. She wasn’t home when she went by several times, so the following day she tried again, with no success. My daughter had to shower and get ready for school the following day, so she asked me to deliver the flowers later that evening.
Granted, I was tired and hungry, and I was tempted to postpone it for another day. But I made up my mind that I had to follow through. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “the road... is paved with good intentions.” So many times in my life I have intended to do something thoughtful, initiated the action, but may not have followed through because…well, I got busy of course.
As a mom, I want to model integrity, so I have to walk the talk. Last night, despite “my needs and excuses,” I walked over to Ms. Ellen’s, only to find out that her sister, Ms. Sue, tried to commit suicide a couple of days ago.
Ms. Sue’s husband died a month ago, and he was the one who made sure that she took her medications. Ms. Ellen was concerned so she moved her sister into her home with her. As if losing her husband after 50 years of marriage wasn’t difficult enough, his 52 year-old daughter, whom Ms. Sue helped raise, intimidated her to hand over her dad’s will and house deed. (The house was in his name only. He thought leaving it to his wife via his will, was sufficient. However, with the daughter now in possession of the will, she denied it’s existence and was caught removing a lot of the house's contents.) Heart-broken, Ms. Sue who loved her as her own daughter, purposely tried to overdose on her medications.
Unbeknownst to me, sweet Ms. Ellen had been dealing with this and the guilt associated. She felt responsible for Sue gaining access to the medications. As I stood there listening to her blame herself, I knew that at this exact moment, this was where I needed to be— To be here present for her, supporting as best I could. It wasn’t about me. It was about her need for a friend. Her need to be reassured that this was not her fault.
Sending money to far away lands, volunteering to go to mission trips to other countries, and even volunteering at local soup kitchens, are all well and good. But what good is being philanthropic and generous, if we miss what’s in front of our face?
If we cannot be present to the needs of those in our proximity, it somehow diminishes the authenticity of philanthropy.
We are a nation obsessed with tracking our “volunteer hours,” but we are too busy to visit or call a friend. There are so many people around us who are lonely, or who are in need of encouragement. These very people are our family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, and strangers who may not want to bother us because we are too busy. They are in need of our time, acknowledgement, and eye contact.
Today on line at the drugstore, I noticed a gentleman who appeared to be in his late sixties or seventies. He was smiling and making congenial comments to the people on line beside him. The woman behind him treated him like he was invisible. What if, as is typically the case with the elderly, he lives alone, this was his only outing for the day, and his only opportunity to make human contact today?
Ironically, moments later directly behind me was an older gentleman as well, who began to talk about the days when “pharmacies were really pharmacies.” He was reminiscing about his father who was a “true pharmacist, back in the day when pharmacists had to mix chemicals on the spot, and place them inside capsules.”
I thoroughly enjoyed having this interaction with this stranger, a man with a life time and perspective different from my own. I was intentional to listen and engage him, especially after what I witnessed moments earlier. I wanted him to feel valued. When I left the store, it occured to me as I found myself in high spirits, that it was “he” who made the difference in me.
At first blush it may seem insignificant, this moment of dialogue on a line. But connections, no matter how small we may think they are, add tremendous value to our lives.
Copyright © 2011 Ella Venezia. All Rights Reserved
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