How many times during childhood did we hear these two words, "Pay Attention"? Hundreds I would guess. And, if you are like me, my thoughts immediately move towards a stern, or even negative feeling when saying and/or hearing, "Pay Attention". I know this is likely due in large part to being a parent. We want our kids to pay attention to something we are teaching or showing them so they will be one step closer to being equipped to one day lead their own lives. But, why do we so often think paying attention always correlates with teaching? Doesn't it also speak to having consideration, or courtesy? How about just a simple observance?
This week, while out running errands, I noticed on this particular day, I had a heightened awareness of people around me. Those who I either hoped would have payed closer attention (like the driver who pulled out in front of me nearly sending my car into the nearby ditch!) or those who seemed to be moving through their day with blinders on, keeping totally to themselves, not looking at or interacting with others around them. I wondered if because all these people didn't have a parent next to them instructing them to, "Pay Attention", they simply aren't? Nah, that's silly but the thought was still a bit discouraging.
Well, on to my next stop I went. This time noticing how the sudden and random gusts of strong winds were making it more challenging to drive, but I continued on and parked my car. I have to admit, I stayed inside for a few minutes to vainly consider how bad my hair is about to look once I open the car door and proceed into these gusts. And then, it happened...
I see an adorable little girl, not more than 3 years old, leaving the store hand in hand with her mother. At first I was struck by her cute face and pretty smile but my attention quickly moved to what I witnessed next. The moment the two passed through the doorway from the store to the outdoors, the little girl's face instantly and quite dramatically lit up as a huge gust of wind caught her face. It sent her lovely, long hair straight up into the air, her eyes began blinking non-stop, and she came to a sudden stop in her steps. She then quickly turned her body towards her mother, locked both smile and eyes with her, and let out the most beautiful, joyously loud scream I've ever heard! And, without missing a beat, the little girl's mother bent to her knees and joined her daughter in this glorious, nose-to-nose, screaming chorus. Their moment lasted all the way through the gust of wind until its passing when the mother rose back to her feet and the two continued on, smiles wide, as they walked hand in hand to their car.
What just happened here? I've witnessed a most beautiful example of paying attention! Not a teaching example of paying attention but the simple observance, awareness-type. Amazing! And even more paying attention-like was that terrific mother who rather than using that moment to teach her daughter to pay attention to not scream in public, she chose to 'teach' her daughter, without using any words as all, the simple joy of paying attention to the wind and the simple joy of capturing and paying attention to living in the moment. Ugh...I want to have coffee with that mother!
How many times throughout the course of a day do you and I truly pay attention to things outside of our own life? That little girl and her mother reminded me of an important lesson. Paying attention is so much more than listening and learning. It's the bigger concepts of observance, consideration, courtesy, and devotion that will keep us outside of ourselves. And isn't that precisely where you and I will become a better self?
Kirsten Berger Coaching