Forgetting to Notice

FullSizeRender (12)“I forgot to notice,” I said early this morning, of the light cover of snow that was even then sifting down. My husband had just commented on the snow that had appeared on our sons’ cars, out across the big farm driveway where they sit out in all kinds of weather. It surprised me that I didn’t see it.

When snow is to come overnight, that’s usually my first thought upon waking. I’m always excited at the prospect of that transformed landscape. (Yes, I know what some of you are thinking; I am indeed one of those unapologetic snow lovers.) I’ll wake in the night, fumble for my glasses and then peer out our upstairs window to see, in the glow of the barnyard light, whether it really happened.

But today, I forgot to notice.

Some years ago I was moved by the way a colleague paid attention to the unremarkable woman behind the counter at a restaurant where we were placing our lunch orders. I was doing what I do in an unfamiliar restaurant, scanning the menu and figuring out where to order and did I want the smoked chicken or the burnt ends. My ruminations were interrupted when Michael greeted that worker with a few words that reminded me and perhaps her that she was a person. Up to that moment she might have been just an automaton tasked with hearing and properly transmitting our selection among the various menu options, and sizes, and how hot the BBQ sauce should be, and whether or not the iced tea should be sweet. In a moment, with just a few words stunning in their simplicity, my friend summoned the living, breathing human being that she was, with her own story and aspirations and challenges. I left that encounter determined to offer a similar gift to the people I might meet behind counters and in booths and maybe even in my own workplace. At home, even.

But over and over, in the many years since, I have forgotten to notice.

I reminds me of that true word many of us have heard in worship settings, when we’re about to pass the peace of Christ. “Look first for the people you don’t know, and greet them, and only then turn to the ones you do.” Good words. Needful words, whether it’s during that specific worship moment or during fellowship times or on the street outside. I hope I’m not alone, though, in confessing that many times, as the next hymn began, or the reading, or as the children have streamed up for the children’s time, as I’ve settled back into my seat I’ve felt pierced when that realization steals over me: “I forgot to notice.” The moment we stood up, I had glimpsed that friend whom I hadn’t seen for awhile, or remembered some business I could quickly carry out with that committee member over there, and as quickly as it came, that open, receptive, potentially pregnant moment was over.

Even with good intentions, and clarity about what is right to do, I so easily fall back into what’s familiar and comfortable. It’s no wonder that question resounds down through the Bible, including Jesus asking his disciples:  “Do you have eyes, and fail to see? Do you have ears, and fail to hear? And do you not remember?” (Mark 8.18) Jesus knew us so well.

As this old year ends and the new one begins, I want to remember to notice. To remember to live the vision God has granted.


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