Do you take the time to be aware?

Take time to be aware. It’s the opportunity to help others. As a graduate school instructor I am continually amazed when I ask my students how many of them have done training or received instruction on the topics of attention, listening and conversing. The response rate is pretty low which I see as a window of opportunity! Many of us take for granted our ability to fully listen or be fully aware of what is happening around us.

Time after time, many a client have missed key clues or signals as to what’s going on around them and therefore, work with a very limited view of the situation. This limited information becomes the basis for their determination of what the problem is that they are trying to solve. They then launch into problem-solving without ever fully understanding what was going on in the first place. So things only get worse with everyone getting more frustrated. What if we could do better?

There are many reasons why we may not be aware. The first is that we all move way too fast to even have the capacity to take notice. Our lives are so jam packed with activities and hurrying to get to the next place we miss the opportunity to notice. We miss the opportunity to observe and to even think about asking a question or connecting with others. Secondly, our brains and bodies are so bombarded with stimulation from all our senses that we have no bandwidth to capture anything more. We cannot prioritize all the information coming at us so we begin to tune out what is happening around us because all the information is simply too much to handle. Most importantly, many of us have not taken the time to learn the skills needed that can heighten our sense of awareness in both active and passive situations.

When we have the capacity and the skills to be aware of the world around us and most importantly our fellow human beings, then we can begin to tune into how we can best serve others. Often times I will be in a situation and without asking I will go over and offer assistance, or send a hand written note or prompt another to aid someone. Unfortunately, so many others will have completely missed these opportunities. Those situations are teachable moments; opportunities for me to help others see what I have noticed.

One key piece of teaching others is to do so without judgment. I don’t want others to feel bad, I want others to feel safe and to be open to learning how they might better serve others. Better yet,  is seeing the opportunity to serve another and to see either a student or one of my children step into that moment because they were aware. These are the moments I treasure!

So take the time to slow down. Take time to think about what you give attention too. Take time to learn skills that will help you increase your awareness (body language, listening & conversing/group dynamics) and find the opportunities to help serve others.

For more stories about what you can see and find by slowing down, please follow the link to my book Seeing the Extraordinary in the Ordinary.



Do you take the time to be angry…

Take the time to be angry but also make sure to take the time to be hurt, sad and vulnerable. After a tumultuous and emotional week as a nation, I feel it is critical to acknowledge that it is ok to be angry and ok to be sad. All too often in our fast-paced world, we tend to go from incredibly emotional experiences right to feelings of anger and revenge. We mask what is really behind this in the cloak of the need to be perceived as stable and unaffected. I would like to call attention to the importance of having feeling and the importance of being able to be in a place of weakness. Being vulnerable, being hurt, being sad are the things that we often hide behind our anger. I think it is also important for us as a nation and people to honor the incredible complexities that exist in our world. There are no easy solutions in the work that needs to happen to begin to heal our people and our communities.

On Sunday, our pastor told us that it is ok to be angry, just don’t sin because of your anger. I want to tease that out a bit because I think many of us will hear that and not be able to get to the real richness and wisdom that statement holds for every single one of us. Being angry is ok. When I heard of the latest shooting here in Minnesota, I cried. The sorrow for the man who was shot, the pain for the officers involved the sadness and loss for the community. Turning to violence is a choice, but I would say we have other options.

I wonder if we are open to other options. Do they require risk – yes? Do they need more of each of us – yes? Do they demand that we move outside our comfort zones – yes? Do they require that we do what many of us have been instructed to do from a very early age to do – yes? Do unto others as you would have done unto you, even when it is hard; even when it requires us to step outside of what we know; even when it challenges us to our core – yes, yes, yes. For us as a people to grow, to exist and to live in the community we must, must, must be open to failure and the unknown, we must be more open and vulnerable, and we must be far more humble in the fact that we need each other. We need each other’s gifts and talents to live on this planet.

For me, as one who loves God, it requires that I love my neighbor. For me, it requires that I get off my bottom here in the suburbs and go to places that aren’t always comfortable for me. I must go to places where communities are hurting. When I get there lacking the confidence of what to do or how to do it, but when I can believe in provision in those moments of need, then I feel strength and trust. I go to offer support that helps strengthen and bring resources that our precious communities and families need. I don’t do it for them; rather I contribute to building relationships and capacity in them so that they have better resources to address these very complex and challenging issues that are part of their environment. We must do this work together.

Dear friends, take the time to be angry but also make sure to take the time to be hurt, sad and vulnerable. For it is in our weakness with each other that the massive, impenetrable walls that we have built around each other come down and then real connections, right meaning, and real relationships can begin to take root and grow.

Do you seek other stories about hope and healing then follow the link to Seeing the Extraordinary in the Ordinary.