Hey friends, following on from our last conversation on intentionality, I wanted to share what I’ve been thinking about : Being Present.
I think we all know “that guy”, and I probably am “that guy” to some of you. The guy so focused on his phone or on what he’s thinking about, that he’s not really listening to you. I know my wife has called me out on this a time or two.
We start pretty innocently, checking the phone (or worse, the watch) quickly at dinner. Taking a sideways peek. No big deal. Then we see an alert we really want to read more. Before you can say “Lasagna”, we’re down that rabbithole of a r/espresso thread at the dinner table.
Maybe your distraction looks different than mine. But the distractions that prevent us from being present are all around us. It is a test of our heart and intentions.
I’ve heard it said that New York, a city of approx. 9m residents, can be one of the loneliest places in the world. It’s true. I’ve lived that life surrounded by people, but all alone.
Being Present (As a parent)
As a parent, this is especially apparent to me. I’ve come to understand that kids don’t really want the newest toy or new shoes. “Things” are always the icing on the cake. The cake is your time, your presence. I’ve heard it said that to engage with a child, you have to come down to their level. I find the most memorable times with the girls are where I play with them in their own space, at ground level, with their toys.
I can’t count the number of times, I’ve been around the kids, but not really BEEN there. I’ve been thinking about the business or life or some argument I had, and listening to them with only 10% of my attention. They recognize that too, and will soon stop talking and engaging with me. That usually brings me back to reality, and reminds me that they value my time more than anything else I can offer them.
Toxic Positivity and Being Present
The WSJ wrote an article on toxic positivity. “Sometimes the worst thing you can say to a person who’s feeling bad is: “Cheer up!””
There is truth to this. Cliche-d one liners tell people that you are not really listening. Not with your whole being. Because if you really hear someone going through pain or grief, you empathize with them. Then you realize that a glib saying won’t take the pain away.
Our Pastor once described the Jewish practice of sitting shiva. “It’s a time to honor a mourner’s grief process without trying to correct or fix it, as the focus is on giving space to mourn without constraint.”. I’ve been approached by friends going through pain or grief, and I try to “fix it”. I am definitely the platitude guy.
I need to learn that this is an escape mechanism, a way to not empathize, to not be present with the grieving and hurting. It may be uncomfortable to be silent, but that is often what people need. I’ve heard it said that Job’s friends erred when they started to talk. Stay silent, and be with the grieving and hurting.
Being present takes time and energy, just as much as being intentional does. We need to push down our natural desire to escape feeling the pain of others, empathizing with others, and taking time out of our days to “be with”.
In response to our question about the most valuable thing you’ve ever given away or received for free:
Victoria Gallo, Connecticut: My time. One of my friends was emotionally hurting, and I am glad to have been there for him. Time is a gift, too. Dedicating time and energy to others keeps things in perspective.WSJ
Time is indeed the most valuable gift. And we need to share more of it. It reminds me of the boy with the two fish and the five loaves of bread. When he gave it up, even though he didnt have enough for himself, he was blessed to see it being sufficient to feed the multitude.
Give of this most precious resource (time), and it will bless all those around you.
Thanks for joining me friends, speak soon! May your time be filled with meaningful relationships.