Pay attention. I am not kidding. Really.

Month: February, 2015

Just because we can doesn’t mean we should. (Part 2)

photo of guy on cell phone with woman beside him forced to listen – and not very happy about it

Appropriate behavior? NO!

Can, Should, &
Blah, Blah, Blah

After reading Part 1 of this can-and-should series, your mind’s probably racing. All kinds of examples of people NOT asking Should I? are popping into your head, aren’t they? Chief among them must be this one.

Just because we can swipe our finger and talk on our cell – regardless of where we are – doesn’t mean we should. I’m quite sure you’ve heard others rant about this but, apparently, some of us aren’t paying attention. Hence, the need for this post.

  • Maybe other diners don’t really want to hear our chewing-gum-for-the-mind conversation with Colleen.
  • Maybe people passing us on the street really won’t be impressed with our trying-to-sound-important business conversation, sprinkled with annoying corporate buzzwords. (That one’s pretty much guaranteed!)
  • Maybe other commuters just want a little peace and quiet at the end of an exhausting work day.

The should question
of these scenarios
is oh-so-easy:
“Will I annoy others
if I talk here?”

If the answer’s yes, then the appropriate behavior is to take yourself and your cell somewhere private and carry on your conversation there. Trust me, the other diners will not be annoyed that they don’t get to eavesdrop on your conversation. Quite the opposite. Like the other commuters and passersby, they will think more kindly of you.

Doing what you should instead of what you can ensures your fellow diners, fellow commuters, fellow workers, etc., will not send nasty looks, negative vibes, and sarcastic remarks your way. Pay attention: life is harsh enough. Wouldn’t a little less harshness be preferable to creating supplemental harshness? Yes, well, as you can tell, that’s what I think, too.

I’d planned to be done right about here, but Hubby insisted I pass on this unsavory gem from his recent experience. He witnessed an elderly woman who had not silenced her cell phone for A FUNERAL. Yes, a funeral. When her chirping phone went off, she ANSWERED IT FROM HER SEAT WHILE THE PRIEST WAS GIVING THE EULOGY AND KEPT ON TALKING – FROM HER SEAT – THROUGH THE EULOGY. I am not making this up. Neither is my husband. Usually a laid-back, live-and-let-live kind of guy, he was still frothing about it several hours later when he relayed the story to me.

If she had paid attention to where she was and asked herself Should I?, hubby would’ve had a lower BP and no dramatic story to tell. But more importantly, she could’ve spared herself the boatload of nasty vibes sent her way and the priest’s after-the-fact reprimand. As I’ll keep saying, 

doing what’s appropriate
greases the wheels
of ALL our relationships.

Next up is my third and final example of can-versus-should (not that I couldn’t give you HUNDREDS more, you understand). It’s the one that causes an astounding percentage of our population the most painful of problems. It’s also the one which could so easily be avoided by simply asking Should I? I’ve touched on it in an earlier blog post. It’s a prevalent problem that, more than almost any other, most definitely should be run through the filter of Should I? So please pay attention when, for one last time, I harp on just because we can doesn’t mean we should.

©2015, Teresa Bennett

red box with white text: "Do nothing without purpose." – Augustine

An ancient Christian’s way of saying Should I?

Just because we can doesn’t mean we should. (Part 1)

photo of guy's legs sticking out from under a pickup

How can THIS be relevant?

Sorry. I know you’ve heard the above proverb lots, but hang with me.

Like you, I’ve recited it to myself a bazillion times and STILL, I find myself doing something simply because I can. I zoom right past should-I? and jump recklessly into can-do. Even though I know better, I don’t do better. Sound familiar? Okay, so we know this stuff, but we don’t do it.

What makes us persist
in such muzzy behavior?

Beats me. Maybe because knowing and doing are two entirely different kettles of fish? Or maybe we can chalk it up to our propensity for our smartphone-induced partial attention to life – never fully paying attention to much of anything? (I doubt this is the culprit, since the condition we’re discussing is The Human Condition, predating smartphones by thousands of years. But, hey, it’s a literary transition. It’s here for reasons that will become clear in Part 2 of this topic.)

I could keep on speculating but the wretched truth is this: I don’t know why we persist in this self-sabotage. All I know is that we do and, as a result, tons of things are broken in our society. One of the most broken, due to our knowing and not doing, is the concept of appropriate behavior. Because of that, I think it’s a concept which requires a whole lot of unabashed harping. And just so you know, I HAVE asked myself Should I? and the answer, as you can see, is an emphatic, harpy yes!

Can, Should, &
“Here I am – barely made it.”
Pant. Pant. Pant.

Just because a guy can go straight from tinkering with his car to a friend’s wedding doesn’t mean he should. (See, the photo does have relevance.)

I know what you’re thinking. “Who would do that?” Actually, lots of guys.

I’ve been to hundreds of weddings (really) and truly, I’ve seen guys who looked as if they’d just crawled out from under their pickup, jumped in, fired it up, and roared into the car park for a wedding ceremony they’d apparently almost forgotten. What these turkeys should have done – regardless of what they were doing – is shower and change into appropriate clothes for The Most Important Event of a friend’s life – his wedding day.

A guy can’t get into too much trouble with his friend if he shows up at his friend’s wedding dressed the way he knows his friends and relatives expect him to dress. Guys who claim they don’t know any better are shameless liars.

On the other hand, a guy can alienate his friend’s new bride, embarrass his friend in front of his new in-laws, and do damage to a friendship going back to junior high when he defaults to the jeans-and-T-shirt uniform. Guys who do this clearly think so little of their friends that they don’t stop to ask themselves, Should I?

But it’s our right!

Yes, our society does give us all license to behave as badly and as inappropriately as we like. Besides, who are we to tell someone else what’s appropriate? Why even worry about what’s appropriate and what isn’t? Isn’t that just being hypocritical, hypercritical, and superficial?

No, as it turns out, it is not. Here’s the pay-attention bit to the much-ignored can-versus-should dilemma that I intend to harp on till we’re all sick of if. Caring about how our actions affect others is a good thing because:

doing what’s appropriate
greases the wheels
of ALL our relationships.

(Check out this post if you care about dressing appropriately purely for self-serving reasons.)

Next up is another prime example of people not paying attention and forgetting to ask Should I? It’s one we’re all supremely familiar with – either as blatant perpetrators or as hapless victims. Warning: if you’re a perpetrator, I’ll be asking you to be honest enough to ‘fess up and start asking Should I?

©2015, Teresa Bennett

red box with white text: “To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it.” – G K Chesterton

A 1900s English theologian’s can-and-should

Letting Go: THE Sweater

photo of striped sweater

This sweater is teaching cool stuff.

I know two very cute little girls who, if everything goes according to plan, will likely experience an event chockfull of pay-attention points in a few years. I know their parents well and am certain they’ll use this event as an SLE (educator-speak for Significant Learning Experience) to teach both daughters the letting-go concept as well as the gratitude concept.

Are you a parent of young children? If so, I do hope you’re fortunate enough to be part of something that promotes these two pay-attention concepts. There’s a good-sized group of parents in our church fellowship who take part in a very predictable, hand-me-down-clothes chain, which helps them teach these concepts to their young charges almost effortlessly.

Here’s what’s
on the horizon
for these two little girls.

Right now, an older girl in this hand-me-down chain is wearing the darling striped sweater (above) that she and her mother snagged for a song at a thrift shop run by a local, church-sponsored children’s home. The first time she wore it to church services, a young mother approached her and began telling an interesting story (though what on earth it had to do with her, she couldn’t imagine).

A few years back, when she had been on a mission trip to China, the young woman realized she needed different clothes. Being an average American woman, she was taller and larger than the wee Chinese women all around her. It took some diligence to find appropriate clothes that fit.

But she persisted and found a shirt and a sweater that worked. In fact, the sweater did more than “work.” It came to symbolize the whole mission trip and all its memories, gradually becoming THE Sweater. Once back in the States, she kept wearing both – until motherhood intervened. (Those of you who’ve gone through a pregnancy know that’s a politely veiled way of saying motherhood piled on some pounds, some of which stubbornly refused to leave, and some bones shifted and found new homes, also stubbornly refusing to budge.)

Paying attention to her new normal, she donated the Chinese shirt. But she couldn’t bring herself to part with THE Sweater. Soooo many memories. How could she just throw it out?! Besides, they had plenty of storage space.

Enter, The Husband. A practical sort, he kept asking why she hung onto something she could never wear again. “Why not just donate it? Someone else could be using it.Eventually, agreeing with her husband’s wisdom and sharing his concern for the less fortunate, she released her grasp on THE Sweater Full of Memories and sent it to a thrift shop.

Now we’re back to the point where we came in. But don’t get up and leave; we’re only midway through the movie.

You see, the 12-year-old now wearing THE Sweater will eventually hand it on to another girl, who will hand THE Sweater on to the girl after her in this well-designated chain, who will hand THE Sweater off to…. You guessed it: the story-telling young mother’s two cute little girls.

Is that not cool?

This story is simply oozing
with pay-attention lessons.

  • The obvious one, of course, is that when we no longer use/need/want something, we should pass it onbefore it’s ratty-tatty or out-of-style – so that someone else will benefit from it.
  • A close second in this story’s pay-attention lessons is the can-versus-should dilemma we all struggle with. Just because we can do something (store things we don’t need or use for indefinite periods of time) doesn’t mean we should hang onto our extra stuff indefinitely. (Read more about this exasperating pothole of life.)
  • Memories, by definition, live in our brains. They are not part of a tangible item like, oh say, a sweater. When we give the item away, we get to keep the memory.
  • Any used item given to us has value, even though we didn’t pay money for it.
  • More importantly, a used item can come to us complete with a mini history lesson that just might be more valuable than the item ever was at its newest and best.
  • Releasing what we’re grasping gives us a free hand into which something else can be placed. Full hands are just that: full. They can’t accept anything more. (That goes for closets, too, BTY.)
  • When we’re willing to release our grasp on something, sometimes it can return to us in a most delightful and unexpected way.
red box with white text: “The only things we can keep are the things we freely give to God.  What we try to keep for ourselves is just what we are sure to lose.” – C.S. Lewis

When we give to those in need, we give to God.

red box with white text: “...remember the words of the Lord Jesus that he himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'” – Acts 20: 25, The NET Bible

I want to be the “more blessed,” don’t you?

Well, that’s a wrap.

Stay tuned. Next on the docket is the can-versus-should pothole of life – that pit into which most of us, including moi, regularly tumble. (Warning: it won’t be pretty.)

©2015, Teresa Bennett

Odd #14: Quality Control Run Amok

photo of tooled-leather coin purse

I didn’t know how to do this. Didn’t matter.

After seven years of honing my QC skills around our farm and farmhouse, I got my first real chance to show the rest of the world just how it’s done. At the ripe age of 14, I signed up to “judge” crafts at our local 4-H fair. Winning at the local level, I went on to district and then to state, where I won first place.

First place in what, you ask? Why, leather tooling, of course. Small matter that I had never so much as tooled a pocket-sized coin purse, let alone something substantial like, oh, say, a book cover or a chair seat. I didn’t need to since, as you already know, I possessed the innate talent of quality control.

Just to be on the safe side, though, Mother took me to the northernmost edge of our county for two hours of tutelage from a 4-H leader who was an expert leather tooler. Bidding me to pay close attention, she gamely showed me the tools, demonstrated their use, and gave me a leather tooling booklet to read. Having done as she was asked, she sent me on my way, clearly certain of my failure.

Ha! When you’re
a born quality control inspector,
finding the flaws
in others’ work is easy-peasy.

I let her cynicism roll right off. Drawing from my 14-year-old well of wisdom, I knew that not having done something with your own two hands had nothing to do with your ability to judge when that skill has been correctly applied. My father, it turned out, did not agree.

When I came home with blue ribbons hanging off my chest and a big grin on my face, my father – usually my biggest fan – was not his usual supportive self. I caught him quizzing my mother about the whole event, growing increasingly exasperated. From their whispered conversations, I learned he thought some of the “youngsters” who’d actually done leather tooling deserved to win. What that had to do with it, I could not fathom. He even went so far as to commiserate with the poor children: “Tsk, tsk, how disappointed they must be,” etc., etc. Such a mutiny from my biggest fan diminished some of the shine on my shiny blue ribbons – but not much, since my quantity of pride more than compensated for his lack of same.

For several years thereafter, when a conversation turned to “what the experts say,” my Father turned surly. Oh let’s just say it: he exhibited an uncharacteristic, most unflattering, grousing streak. His opinion of “experts” had definitely changed – and not for the better.

We parted company on this topic for most of my youth. I figured if you have a QC talent, you should use it. If you win some honors and are designated “an expert” because of it, so much the better. The poor people who had to do something before they could be an accurate judge of it were just slow learners in my book, and I didn’t feel a bit sorry for them.

By the time he told me the story about my appraisal of his remodeling skills (in Odd #13), he’d found his equilibrium and could laugh about it and this little 4-H story, as well. I had, however, lost mine by then and it took a few more years before I, too, could see the humor.

Is there a pay-attention point to all this jaded carping?

Of course!
Pay close attention,
as it’s a thorny one.

My QC skills, like most natural talents, needed some tactful polishing before being let loose on an innocent public. As an obnoxiously overconfident fourteen-year-old, I had yet to learn this. Hoo boy; now THAT’s an understatement.

So while you’re encouraging those young people around you to deploy their natural talents, it’s advantageous for all concerned if you also do a ra-ra-ree cheerleading routine for that perennial winner, Tact.

Pay attention: you don’t want your pep talks to create an unrealistic “I’m-soooooo-clever” attitude, do you? Any talent unmodified by tact – at the very minimum – turns into a dicey dilemma for most of the parties involved, as you’ve just read. Sometimes it moves well beyond dicey: it starts internecine wars.

red box with white text: “Like apples of gold in settings of silver, so is a word skillfully spoken.” – Prov. 25:11, The NET Bible

This applies to QC and everything else!

Okay, we’re done with that.

Had enough schadenfreude? (I LOVE it when I can find a legitimate use for this German tongue twister.) How about we take a break from these ODD blog posts? I’m sure you’re getting just as tired of them as I am. Besides, they’ve become a good deal more embarrassing than I surmised (see above!). Let’s switch to pay-attention truths that we can learn from stories involving way less of my oddity – preferably none at all, at least for the time being. 

I’ve almost finished gussying up the next blog post. Here’s the tease: it’s about cute little girls (those darlings of the ad world) and titled Letting Go. (If you haven’t already, click the “+ Follow” button at bottom right to be notified when it’s published.)

©2015, Teresa Bennett

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