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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Tonight’s Family Time

Tonight’s Family Time

Katie, my teenage daughter, has a special gift. When she was little and we would have the teens over, which during school months was usually once a week for pasta night, Katie would attach herself to one of the teen girls. She would sit with them on their lap, take them up to her room to play Barbie or build houses out of books, and sit next to them at dinner. She would be completely focused, totally devoted to that one teen.

Fortunately, Katie has an adorable smile and deep, delicious dimples. That teen probably left feeling truly loved and valued. Katie’s day would have been vastly different if that teen hadn’t shown up that day. They felt important because they were important to her.

Katie is grown now, but continues to have that ability to totally focus on someone else. She can spend hours with a baby, carrying them, feeding them, and even changing diapers. She sets aside whatever other things she may be interested in and absorbs herself in the life of that one child. She makes them smile and they feel loved and valued.

I pointed out how Katie and Anna had both done that with Brady on Sunday, the one and a half year old who is part of our home church. They had each at times, walked with him, played with him, gone upstairs and back down with him, and loved him. They set aside whatever else they may have wanted to do and focused on him. Ethan and Ryan did something similar with Ethan W., Brady’s 5 year old brother. Ryan left with a cut lip from the sword and Ethan with a headache from where his head hit the tile, but that's just because boys are different from girls.

I told them how important it is to give someone our whole self, to really give someone our full attention and show someone that we really care.

“That’s why I like being the host, instead of the guest,” added Katie. When prompted, she added, “When you’re the host, you are supposed to do whatever your guest wants, so I like that. But, when I am the guest, I don’t care what we do. I just want to do whatever they want. So, in the beginning it is harder, more awkward, to be a guest.”

Anna agreed but then remembered a girl from her old school that was very talkative but never seemed to say anything. She added, “Some people, it’s hard to do that with. There was a girl last year that I tried to give her my attention when I could and just listen and focus on her. But, sometimes I had to say, ‘No. I can’t talk now,’ or else I couldn’t deal with her. I remember making a conscious decision at times to listen to her and just give her my full attention. Other times I couldn’t.” And, she smiled, “One time, we got into this talk about heaven and horses in heaven and it was really good. Really good! Who would have thought that I could have a conversation like that with her? But, we did!”

Ethan piped up, “Yeah, some people it is really hard to do that with. Definitely.”

I told them about one of the best memories I have growing up. When I was in my late teens, my great grandmother came to New York for a visit from her home state of West Virginia. I would usually see her once a year when we would go down to visit her, but it was rare for her to come to New York. This trip was different though because she was suffering with Alzheimer’s. She was reverting, so it seemed, back to her childhood. She kept asking if she could go home now and wondered what time it was. She was referring to her childhood home from over 80 years earlier. And, the more she asked the more agitated and anxious she would become if someone didn’t answer her.

She wasn’t able to do much, but she enjoyed simple puzzles. So, I set her up next to the dining room table and there we sat doing puzzle after puzzle. I just sat and talked with her and helped her find pieces and answered her questions. I gave her my undivided attention. I listened, and I learned to love her as she was. I gave her my full attention for a few hours and 25 years later I still remember it.

“You’re good at that,” Ethan said.

“What?” I wondered what he was referring to.

“You’re good at that, listening to people and making them feel important.”

“Thank you.” That meant a lot coming from Ethan who I had spent many hours with, lying next to him in his bed and listening to him. I guess he understood what I was doing and why. It was making a difference.

“But,” I reminded them, “remember Ethan’s warning." Recalling something he had said a couple of months earlier. "If we always focus on what other people want and never take care of ourselves and what we want, we’ll become miserable and then we won’t be any good to anybody.”

We all shook our heads in agreement and I ended our time together with a prayer asking God for the ability to be present with people and listen and love them by being focused on them.

Many times our devotions don’t seem to tap into anything profound and sometimes I wonder if we are just wasting time, but then we have talks like this and I remember how important it is to just make opportunities, not try to force anything, and let the Spirit lead when He will.

Giving someone our full attention can change a person's day or, maybe you've heard the stories, even save a life. Show someone true love, listen to them and give them your undivided attention.

(Since Valentine's Day is tomorrow, why not think of someone that you could call or visit? Pray and ask God if there is someone that you know that may not have anyone special to spend Valentine's Day with and give them your full attention even if it is just for a little while.)

1 comment:

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