How would you complete this statement?
“____________________ is the rarest and purest form of generosity.”
Possibilities might include:
A. Financial assistance
B. A thoughtful, meaningful present
C. A favor or kind deed
According to a speaker I heard on the radio, the answer is D. He was evidently quoting Christian author and activist for the poor, Simone Weil (1909-1943):
Attention is a rare form of generosity, because it involves time and effort—both of which are precious commodities.
But every now and then, all of us need someone to focus her eyes on ours, listen to our words with mental concentration, and respond appropriately–even pick up on our facial expressions and tone of voice.
That’s often the exception, however, not the norm. Who has not tried to share a deep, heartfelt concern, only to have the listener look away at a slight distraction or steal a glance at her phone, then fail to react appropriately because she wasn’t tuned in to the story? Worse yet is when she interrupts with her own story, her own agenda.
I don’t want to be that distracted person. I’d like to follow my brother’s example. John has always been one to give up the precious commodity of time for others.
During our growing up years, we lived next door to a family with five children. Tragedy struck one afternoon when the father fell while repairing their roof. He hit his head on the concrete driveway and never regained consciousness. The next day he was gone.
Though John was at least seven or eight years older than three of those neighbor boys, he would play ball with them now and again, giving them a bit of attention, which they surely needed.
One time when Fred, the third oldest child, came to our door and asked, “Can John come out to play?” we had to laugh. (Not in front of Fred, of course.) At the time, John was in his early twenties, serving in the Air Force and home on leave! But he did go out to play.
I’d also like to follow the example of Dixie, the choir director of one of the churches where my husband served as pastor. She perfectly demonstrated how to live out Philippians 2:4 (NIV): “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (1).
Dixie always stayed focused on the persons sharing with her. She was responsive, without saying too much, letting the speakers know they were being heard and understood.
Great satisfaction can result from providing the gift of attention to another. But that’s not the only blessing.
- We gain a better understanding of life while listening to the experiences of others. “A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions” (Proverbs 18:2 NIV).
- Our own relationships can be strengthened as we learn from the examples of those who share with us.
- Worthwhile ideas are discovered—ideas we may never have thought of on our own.
- When we’re kind to the needy, we honor God (Proverbs 14:31b).
* * * * * * * * * *
Lord, I don’t want to be wrapped up in my own agenda. I’d much rather be like my brother, John—generous with my time and communicating encouragement through my attentive presence. Help me also to be an attentive listener like Dixie. Remind me, Father, to slow down, embrace the moment and genuinely interact with those around me.
- Note to self: Concern for self is not wrong as long as true compassion for others balances the scale of my attention.
Who has provided the rare gift of attention for you? What did you appreciate most about that gift? Please share your story in the Comments section below!