Onto question #4 – What am I willing to notice in my world?
There is a phrase often used in pastoral care, counseling, etc – active listening. Its a practice of seeking to be conscious of the listening process in a caring relationship. It seeks to make listening not simply a passive thing, but instead a practice that is reflective, directed, and conscious. I thought of this practice when reflecting on this question. What am I willing to notice in my world?
There are countless things that we all notice in our lives. Changes that break into our everyday routines, a new developmental move by a child, unexpected events, and many many many more things. But I think there are also countless things we choose to not notice. Some of this is conscious, some of it is unconscious.
We grow so used to certain things that we barely notice them any longer. For instance, when we first moved here to Wyoming, I think I heard the train everytime it went by. Now, just a year later, I only really notice it when we’re just a block or so away or we physically see it crossing over Wyoming Ave. Even though the engineers continue to blow the whistle just as much, just as loud (especially at 4a). I have unconsciously grown to not notice the train. That’s just one example of many.
We also consciously choose to not notice things. When I am working at a coffee shop on a sermon, for example, I often pop in my earphones and disappear into my own little world. I am consciously choosing to not notice things around me.
Yet, what happens when I do stop to listen for the train? Well, I continue to notice the wonder and joy for my kids who never tire of seeing the train go by. What happens when I choose to not pop in my earphones and take in the surroundings around me? I often experience examples of the diversity of the human experience and I find places where the reality of God breaks into the reality of our lives.
There was a column by Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times a few weeks ago reflecting upon the Haiti earthquake relief efforts. While the author was very careful to not denigrate the unimaginable need in Haiti and the incredible necessity of relief efforts, he was reflecting upon how we noticed the immediate, the new, the sudden that took place in Haiti, in Indonesia, or along the Gulf Coast. Yet, he shared of the continuing tragedy in Congo and spoke of how that ongoing human tragedy is largely unnoticed. Here’s his column. Maybe its because the scale is too great to imagine, maybe we have been worn down by the ongoing nature, maybe it is a host of other factors. Yet, consciously or unconsciously, we don’t notice.
This goes back to Wheatley’s original question…What am I willing to notice? Not…what am I able to notice? Not…what do I want to notice? But…what am I willing to notice? When I think of “willing” it means that I am open to doing something that might dramatically change me? Might blow away my preconceptions. Might make me question what I have held so tightly to. Might do a host of things I may not expect. What am I willing to notice?
What am I willing to begin to consciously notice in my world? Am I willing to consciously notice situations like Congo, the ongoing situation in Haiti, or situations closer to home? On a different note, am I willing to consciously take moments in my day to look for something that reflects the beauty that God has created around us instead of just waiting until something is so beautiful that I can’t help but notice? What am I willing to notice?