Whatever the reason, our lives have taken on a mindless pace. We’ve stopped noticing what’s important. Our days, our habits, our errands become a blur. Interactions between people have become methodically, causing a sea of loneliness that overwhelms our hearts and communities.
The last time I bought groceries my brain was functioning on auto-pilot. After I swiped my debit card and pushed in my usual pin number the cashier looked up and said, “It says the card is denied.” Odd. Swipe. Pin number. Denied. The pin number I had used was for a different debit card. If I can’t even remember which pin number to use when, how can I engage in the stories of others?
Mindlessness diverts our attention away from what’s really before us.
In her book, Mastermind, psychologist Maria Konnikova puts it like this, “We’ve decided, on a certain level, that mindful attention is just not worth the effort, we’ve chosen efficiency over depth.” And don’t we often treat others like this? We see without observing. We look without deep awareness. We converse without making connections.
This costs us authentic relationships and leaves loneliness in it’s path.
“Nice day out there. Sunny.”
“Definitely. I hope it doesn’t rain.”
“How are you?”
But are we really good?
Before going about my errands last week, I spent a little time in the kitchen. While I whipped up a batch of oatmeal and washed a few dishes, I prayed that my trip into town would be different. That I’d have the awareness to see what was really before me. That there’d be opportunities to infuse joy. And because I was intentional about it, this is what happened:
- I gave away a coupon for a free sandwich to a gas station cashier who didn’t have the money to buy lunch.
- An elderly lady gave me her famous ‘sweet dumplin’ squash recipe at the grocery store after I smiled at her at the squash bin.
- A frazzled store cashier shared with me her stress over of traveling 100 miles to work each day.
- A grocery bagger opened up about the fear of his car dying, and that he didn’t really have anyone to call if he became stranded.
It’s amazing what people will share when they know you’re listening, when you’re asking to know them. These interactions and wouldn’t have taken shape had I sped feverishly through my errands.
“We must delight in each other, make others conditions our own, rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together, always having before our eyes our commission and community in the work, our community as members of the same body.” – John Winthrop
- Disrupt your daily habits and patterns. Take some time to do a few things differently this week, you’ll be surprised how quickly it awakens your mind.
- Note your actions as you make them.
- Take time for reflective. When you’re in the kitchen, scrounging up dinner or throwing a few forks into the dishwasher, ponder the things happening in your life, and the ways you can reach out to those around you.
- Don’t just see what’s in front of you. Observe. Pay attention to the details and engage. Like a child, wonder at the world you’re a part of.
- Take in the people around you. Treat each with the care they deserve.
- Look for opportunities to know and care for others. Take them.