Pay Attention!

We went out to dinner last night at a very crowded restaurant (we weren’t informed of the 1/2 price wine special). While we were sitting at our table, a group of people were passing by chatting when they suddenly stopped at another table (right beside of ours) to talk. There were about 4 people in this group standing in the aisle between our table and the table of people they were visiting which blocked any one from passing through. I noticed a male server holding a tray with dessert that he obviously was taking to a customer, but could not pass because of the aisle party that was going on. He stood there patiently thinking they would see him and make room, but that didn’t happen. Another server on the other side of the group was also trying to pass by and she happened to find an opening for her to slip through (she didn’t have any trays in her hand so it was easier). She said something to the fellow still patiently waiting and he finally just started moving forward through the group, still being ignored but politely saying “Excuse me” as he kept creeping through almost having to physically move people out of his way.

I just sat there in amazement. Our server came to our table shortly afterward and we mentioned it to her. She said, “Oh that’s how it is and the customer is always right. We deal with a lot worse some days.” How can that be? Are we so self-absorbed that we have completely dehumanized other people around us simply because they are working their jobs or we don’t know them? Where is our appreciation for others around us?

This happens a lot everywhere, and I am learning to pay attention to things that most people are simply ignoring. Crowds are an irritant for me, but that is where you actually see the most action. People talking over one another. People demanding attention even when they’re not doing anything special. People moving in others’ way just because they want to be in a particular spot. There are millions of examples in just one crowd of people (so we’re not going to even mention a crowded parking lot because the list would grow exponentially!).

It’s no wonder there is a storm of rage brewing in the world, especially in the U.S. We have forgotten how to appreciate each other and pay attention not just for ourselves, but for one another. Standing in a crowd may seem like a bother to you, but what about the fellow who’s trying to get to the other side of the room (like to the bathroom?) If you knew why he was trying to get there, you might move out of the way a little quicker, but do you really need to know why? No. You don’t but you have it in your head that a reason would help you justify your submitting to him.

When I was a teenager, I used to like to go to the mall and sit and people watch. It was always very amusing for me because people do some crazy things. I’ve have learned to do that even when I’m not just sitting and waiting for the people to walk by. I people watch and I am actually learning a lot. The expressions of men’s faces as they are grocery shopping (usually it’s confusion if it’s an older man because you know his wife sent him to the store to pick up that one thing she forgot and he has no clue where it is). What about the way friends talk to each other or better yet, ignore each other while their faces are glued to their phones at a restaurant? Or the patient mom who is trying to send a package at the post office with her 20+/-year old mentally handicapped son and he just wants to go back home?

I saw her at the post office yesterday working on putting stamps on envelopes and her son was with her, standing about 4 feet high, with glasses and in impatient look on his face. He reminded me of my stepbrother who has the mind of a six or seven year old but a body of a 47 year old. His mother engaged him in helping her with the stamps and he was trying to help but he also kept mentioning wanting to go home. She kept to her task and encouraged him to keep helping her. Then they went out to deposit their envelopes into the mailing slot while talking with some other post office patrons on the way out.

Meanwhile, I finished my business with the postmaster and walked out to my car. The mother and her son were still in their car and I had the thought pop up,” She needs encouragement. Go tell her what a good job she is doing.” What did I do? I kept walking to my car because I thought I saw her start to back out of her parking place. She wasn’t. I started my car, still thinking strongly about talking to her, but instead I backed out of my space and headed toward the road. I immediately started feeling guilty because I knew in my heart it was God telling me to encourage her and I was blatantly disobeying. I looked back at her car and miraculously she was still parked in her space looking at some papers in her hands. I backed up my car into the space I had just left and walked over to her car. I tapped on the window and she looked up at me surprised but not particularly angry.

“I just needed to tell you that you are an awesome mom.” I blurted when her window was rolled down. She looked surprised and a little relieved and said,”Well, thank you. Actually, he’s adopted. He’s been with us since he was four years old.” I smiled and told her how my stepbrother who has been in the state’s custody for most of his life and is now living with a lovely family two hours away from his mother. My stepmother simply couldn’t handle raising him and gave him up. That was why I thought I needed to tell this particular mom that she’s doing a great job.

I walked away from her car feeling much better because I had actually obeyed God but also because I may have boosted this woman’s confidence when she needed. I won’t know that but I do know that if I hadn’t paid attention, I wouldn’t have been given the opportunity to encourage her or anyone else.

We really need to pay attention to our surroundings. That includes all of the people around us whether we know them or not. More than that, we need to act on what we observe. Move over for the person trying to get by. Help the older gentleman find the jar of honey in the grocery store. Pick up the trash that you walked over in the parking lot. Paying attention to all of these little details might help bring back the appreciation for one another that’s gone by the wayside. Who knows? The more you pay attention, the more appreciation you might receive.

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