“The most precious gift you can give someone is your attention.”
– Thich Nhat Hanh
Earlier this month, I was on a mission. I need to find a pair of Converse sneakers. Victoria, a beautiful young woman I knew passed away unexpectedly. Her parents requested that friends and family wear Converse sneakers to the services. This was their way of honoring their daughter’s love of exploring the cities of the world by walking, her own beloved pair of Converse on her feet. It was also their way of having us stand together in the love we all shared for this remarkable being.
With a heavy heart, I headed off to a shoe store. Upon walking in the door, I immediately approached a sales associate. She tried to direct me to a different brand of sneaker, so I told her my story, and asked her to point me in the right direction. While she was ringing up my purchase, she again asked me what brought me to the store that day, and again I told her my story.
As I was walked out of the store, she cheerfully shouted after me, “Have a great time tonight!”
Let’s rewind that one. Twice, I told her that I was attending the wake and funeral for a young woman. She told me to…have fun.
As I shared the story with friends they cringed. But, here’s the thing- I don’t really blame the sales clerk.
So often we are not fully present with those who are standing before us.
The sales clerk isn’t alone; if we are honest, this is something we all do…
- We ask a question and then we half listen to the answer.
- Our colleague is reviewing a report with us and we mentally wonder if we remembered to close the garage door.
- We scan the email on our phone while we are listening to a presentation during a meeting.
- Our child is sharing her artwork with us and our mind drifts to all that we need to do when we get into the office.
- We pick up our phone and shoot off a quick text while we are out to dinner with friends.
- Our spouse is sharing the events of their day and our mind wanders to all that’s left to do before going to bed.
I wonder, while we may be plugged in, are we truly connected?
I thought about this as I moved through the following two days of services. As I sat and looked around me I saw people who were connecting with one another, who were supporting one another in the moment, who showed great love in the face of great loss. And I heard story after story about Victoria.
One thing everyone who knew Victoria said about her: When she was with you, she was truly with you. She gave you her undivided attention. When you talked to her, she listened to you, and she heard you.
It was a great reminder of what life is truly all about, being present in the moment with those who are in front of you. Listening to truly hear, not merely to respond. Recognizing that one of the most beautiful gifts we can give to those around us is the gift of our presence.
These days I am still lacing up my Converse. As I walk out into this world,they serve as a reminder to keep my mind where my feet are: grounded with love in the present moment, connected to those who are with me, and ready to listen to truly hear.