A sister quoted the French philosopher, Simone Weil (1909– 1943), to me:
“Attention is the rarest and purist form of generosity.”
I have found this to be true. You will have, too.
I have roamed around a lot in my life. I have found myself a stranger among people of whom I knew no one. But I have also been lonely in familiar places. I have found myself among people to whom I did not relate, people who were not aware of my presence. That may, also, have happened to you.
There are many people in our communities who have no one. They are found among the elderly but also among high school students. They are found among children. They are found among refugees and displaced persons. They are found among prisoners. They are found among your neighbors.
Hopefully you also will have known those moments when someone approached you and talked with you, asked about you, and showed interest in you. That’s when you had the privilege to meet up with an Attention Giver ! They are a rare breed. But they are found in every community. They are a blessing to people. They bring a rare form of generosity.
Attention Givers are needed in other respects. We people, made in God’s image, are restlessly busy doing things, creating things, achieving things, always busily involved … and, since we are communal, we like to tell about it. But, of course, people around us are busy with their own involvements. And so it is that ours go unnoticed. And, therefore, we need Attention Givers, people who take note. We love them for it when they show interest. We try to be modest about our doings, but we feel good when people say, “Say, that looks nice, tell me about it.” Maybe you need an Attention Giver. It is good to be aware of it. We all need people whom we can trust and with whom we can have a communication-moment. Sometimes it may lead to a heart to heart talk.
Maybe you are an Attention Giver. Then you are a special practitioner of God’s greatest commandment: ‘love your neighbor as yourself’. Attention Givers are observant. They sense the loneliness in people around them. They recognize special moments in their neighbors’ lives. They know the art of listening and response. They dare ask the difficult questions and speak words of encouragement.
Actually, we all can grow in the art of Attention Giving. Tell yourself that focusing on your own needs is needful but that you are also capable of entering into the needs and joys of others. There will be people who would love to hear from you. Your thoughtful inquiry will not miss its mark.
Paul often encouraged his helpers by telling what he thought of them. He called Titus his “true son”, Philemon: “dear friend”, and Timothy: “my dear son”. The Lord Jesus Christ was the Father’s great Attention Giver. He saw in us the need for salvation. He told the Church of Ephesus that He knew of their perseverance…the Church of Smyrna that He had taken note of their afflictions…the Church of Pergamum that they had remained true to His name… the Church of Thyatira that He knew their love and faith… and the Church of Philadelphia that they had endured patiently…The Sermon on the Mount is one wonderful display of Attention Giving.