I just finished reading a thread on Facebook which began when a friend posted her observation of a homeless man sitting on a freeway off ramp, talking on a smart phone. Her comment was nothing more than her observation of something which appeared on the surface to be somewhat absurd, and contained neither judgement nor social commentary.
What ensued was a lively, and at times, ugly discussion. Some posters pointed out instances where they’d observed individuals abusing the system and caring individuals by begging for money, then getting into a nice car and driving away. Others spoke of organizations which pay people to be beggars. But the loudest and most opinionated of the group were two individuals who had either spent time working with the truly homeless, or were close to being homeless themselves.
Some accused the original poster of being judgmental and uncaring. Others leaped to her defense, asserting, quite truthfully, that she is not the type to judge or abuse but was merely observing something which, on the surface, appeared inconsistent.
In this world of texting and instant messages and social media in general, we seem to have lost a key element to communication in the name of expediency. That element can be summed up as the personal touch, but includes voice inflections, body language and facial expressions. Without those elements, an innocent remark can quickly spin out of control.
Talk to me. Baby, won’t you talk to me?
Because we are in such a rush or are trying to do too many things at once, we don’t take the time we used to, to listen carefully, not only to what others are saying, but how. I am as guilty as the rest, sending texts to my daughter or reading something while talking to her on the phone. I don’t always hear the tone in her voice that indicates I’ve touched a nerve, however innocently it might have happened. I can tell you, though, that after reading this thread, I’m going to be more aware of the people I speak with, whether they’re friends, family or strangers.
These days, so many of us talk about caring about the fate of others, about doing our part to ease pain and discomfort, whether it’s children, animals, homeless, or whatever our hearts feel strongly about. In the process, we’ve lost sight of what is so important to our day to day lives. We don’t really communicate with those around us.
Like everything else, I know there are exceptions, and I truly admire their ability to circumvent the pitfalls of our quick and dirty communication methods. But for most of us, at least part of the time, we hear or see the words, but lose a lot of the meaning through our lack of attention to the little details.
Talking to a friend recently, I told her that I can often hear her voice in the words she types, the way she says things, the inflections she uses. But unlike actually speaking to her, I really only get part of the picture, and, if I’m just reading the words while doing three other things, I’ll even miss that!
Slow down, you move too fast. You’ve got to make the morning last.
I see this experience as a reminder, at least to myself, to pay attention to those who make time in their day to have a conversation with me; to give them my full attention and truly hear what they have to say.
There’s a post which pops up on Facebook every so often about how we don’t see what’s going on behind the eyes of a boy who was made fun of, or a girl who came to school in tattered clothes, or several other scenarios. This, as far as I’m concerned, is just as relevant to the people we know and love. No matter how well we know them or how much we care, if we don’t give them our full attention, we might miss something important.
Listen actively. Pay attention. Look into their eyes. Ask questions. There will come a time when you’ll be glad you did.
My gratitudes today are:
1. I am grateful for reminders that I’ve fallen off the path.
2. I am grateful for my loving, caring family and friends who have let me get away with this lack of attention for too long, and for the chance to make it up to them.
3. I am grateful for differences of opinion as they often show us something we might otherwise have missed.
4. I am grateful for the abundance in my life. It shows itself in unexpected ways at times, to help me learn my lessons.
5. I am grateful for more time to fix the things I’ve broken.
Love and light.