Switch: Turning On the Super-Power of “Noticing”

2:45 PM

Photo by Deva Darshan on Unsplash
Earlier today I was driving a winding side road, preparing to drop some food off at my daughter’s house. A middle school educator, she has been terribly ill, and is soldiering through end of her school year. I felt a little bit of urgency heading toward her home, typically running late, when I approached an intersection. Shit.
There was a woman crossing the street with a skateboard in her hand and earbuds in her ears.
I’ll admit to a passing moment of agitation as I anticipated that she would force me to slow down and stop without so much as an acknowledgement.
And then, a small thing happened.
She looked over at me, smiled and waved. The kind of wave that acknowledges appreciation. “Thanks for waiting” was my interpretation.
Something shifted in me. It was almost physical.
I watched her walk away, and I found myself smiling. Smiling. I had still been forced to slow down. I had still had to accelerate all over again. But just for a moment, I was able to almost quantify the effect of that little act of humility and gratitude.
She acknowledged me, and appreciated that I was making space for her.
Suddenly, we were a team.
Now, immediately after the incident, I’m transcribing this interaction, as small as it may seem. I’m wondering how many similar transactions happen on any given day in which someone does not acknowledge the other, in which one person is left feeling slighted, ignored, misunderstood?
At the same time, quantifying the cost of taking such a small step to consider someone else. Acknowledgment…humility…gratitude.
The cost of the investment is so small compared to the potential return, not just for me personally, but for my community.
For all of us.
What did it cost to acknowledge somebody crossing the street, needing to make a turn in the road, serving you food? And why don’t we do this all of the time for each other, as simple as it is?
“A person crossing a road near a painted stop sign” by Bethany Legg on Unsplash
Maybe, we’ve bought into this concept that what we accomplish in a day is more important than the people we pass on the street. Maybe we’re exhausted? Distracted? Maybe, we just have some bad habits, like trying to make up time when we could be paying attention.
I’m pretty convinced it’s just a matter of awareness . Focus. Practice.
You know what helps? Noticing.
Noticing when someone does it, a small act of generosity that creates a climate, an environment, for more acts of generosity.
Maybe noticing is a switch, and maybe we can choose to tune in to it.
I think I’m going to give it a try.

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