Before I became a parent, I overheard a conversation between two neighbors, one a man in his 40s and the other a young boy around 12. What I remember most is hearing the boy say to the man “I like talking to you. You talk to me like I am a real person.” I believe that young boy felt heard and cared for. I knew then that I wanted to one day be a parent who honored my children as the “real persons” they were and to never allow them to feel as though their lives and concerns were any less important than my own. God impressed upon my heart that his commandment to treat others as more important than myself meant building life-giving relationships with others and this included my children. And so, I try to give my children my full attention when I am with them. I can attend my child’s soccer game while also keeping myself busy scanning Facebook and texting family and friends. Or, I can really “be there” for them and put away the cell phone while watching them play.
As a Chaplain, I have the same type of opportunities to honor those I care for by giving them my full attention and really be present for them in their times of need. I recently received a call from an employee one morning. She was sitting in her car unable to pull herself together enough to come into the building. Although it was 57 degrees and misting rain and I had dressed that morning as if it was sunny and 90, I went outside to talk with her in the parking lot. We stood there as she poured out her heart about circumstances taking place in her life. And although I was freezing, her urgent needs were all that mattered in that moment. As we talked, there were many employees walking by us on their way in to work, but my eyes never left hers. I suggested we move out of the way of others coming by. I wanted her to know that she had my full attention. She was frantic and unable to think clearly and I could feel her fear as I listened to her story. The end result of those 20 minutes in a cold parking lot in the rain resulted in helping her make a decision that probably saved her daughter’s life. This was not the first time I have had opportunity to care for her. When she called me she said she had been sitting in her car crying and praying and believed she sensed God saying: “call Terrie.” By giving others our time and attention, we not only honor them and build trust with them, we honor God.
So I offer two words of encouragement for all of us: presence and attention. Life can be rushed and we tend not to slow down long enough to focus on others. All of our well-meaning activities can cause us to miss the deep life issues that arise in the lives of our children and those God places in our path. Let’s value what Jesus values: relationships. While we may be busy (like Martha) doing many wonderful things for the Lord and for our children, we must also slow down and be present, devoting our full attention to them (like Mary). Your undivided presence and attention tells them you care deeply for them. Oh the deep, deep love of Jesus; vast, unending, boundless, free. Whether I am looking into the eyes of my children or the people God has placed before me in my role as a Chaplain, I see one who is beautiful to the Lord, one created in his image, one he loves so deeply that he gave his life on a cross.