Yesterday was Christmas Day, and if you come from a huge extended family like mine you may have spent a lot of time with nieces, nephews, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc. This year was no different for my family and I. we spent the first half of the morning opening the boys’ gifts, attending the Christmas morning church service and chit chatting with other church members, visiting with my sister-in-law and her husband, and then finally going out to visit my extended family and parents at grandma’s house. It was a busy day, and at the end of the day, both my children were knocked out on the drive home. I had enjoyed the day myself, and so did my family. What was disappointing, however, was something I witnessed my nephew and nieces doing all throughout the visit with our family.
For the good portion of three hours, my nephew and nieces, each of which range from 11 years old to 18 years old, spent their “family time” on their iPhones. They sent text messages to friends, played games on their phones, and watched YouTube videos… for three hours straight. My brother must have been accustomed to this behavior since he didn’t stop the kids, but my sister-in-law was clearly disappointed with what her children were doing. The two of us ended up sitting with our glasses of red wine and simply enjoying each other’s company. Although we were still disappointed in how the kids chose to “check out” of the family experience on Christmas Day, we realized that we could still be present to one another and catch up.
Sadly, the way my nephew and nieces behaved is not uncommon in the younger generation of today, AND if we are being honest, anyone in any age group who seem to be more fascinated with modern technology and communication devices. We have become glued to our smartphones, and our tablets, our Facebook, our Skype, our Snapchat, our Instagram… yada, yada, yada. We have become so addicted to instantaneous information and reaching out to those who are not in our physical faces that we forget the ones who are actually WITH us at that very moment. Rather than being “present” to the ones who are sitting right next to us, we hop onto our devices and go seeking out those who are farther away. What we essentially doing is robbing the person beside us from our presence and our full attention. While there is nothing wrong with finding and making friends with people in different places, we should never forget the ones who are with us at the present moment and the current place. Those who are actually IN OUR PRESENCE deserve our full attention and OUR presence.
When we are fully present to someone else, that someone else who made the effort to give us THEIR attention, we show something that words cannot possibly replace. We give them our time. We give them our attention. We give them our presence. We give them… ourselves. To be fully present in a given situation, and especially to others in that same situation, we are giving them a very special gift. It is that very special gift that demonstrates our genuine care and concern for the other individual. Think about those moments when you have felt someone was sincere and really did care about you. Was it because they wouldn’t make eye contact with you when talking, or was it when they held your hand and looked you in the eye while they listened to you pour out your soul to them? It was when the other person was fully present to you.
In The Last Prophet book series, the main character has learned throughout her profession that one has to be fully present as a therapist. Sophia, the main character, also comes to realize that being fully present to God means being fully present to everything and everyone around her. This includes the time spent with family, friends, clients, strangers, and most especially in the presence of God. By “the presence of God” I am not simply talking about our time during prayer, but also the quality of the time and the quantity of time. Some can talk to God at the beginning of the day for perhaps an hour, and yet still not fully grasp what God is trying to say to them. Said person may not have been fully present because he or she was thinking of a hundred things to do. Another person may awaken in a rush at the beginning of the day, but stop to give thanks to God for another day and then spend the rest of the day in God’s presence through random acts of love and kindness to others or even appreciating the warmth of the sun or the cool breeze on a hot day. These are some simple ways we can be present to God AND to one another.
When we give someone our full presence and attention, we also discover more about our environment, the surroundings we find ourselves. We are able to take in everything. We take everything into our mind, into our hearts, into your bodies, and into our spirits. We allow ourselves to be open to the experience of another’s company. We learn to be trusting AND trustworthy for the other person. It is in this state of being fully present to someone that we earn their trust and we are able to trust ourselves. We also become more aware of something that may be awry in us or in someone else. Being fully present allows us to notice more things that need to be corrected. Being fully present also allows us to notice things about our family, friends, lovers, or children that we may not have noticed before.
I never realized that my aunt and uncle were quite fond of coffee and wine until I took the time to sit with them on Christmas Day to share both. Great food, good coffee, and a couple glasses of wine later, I realized that my aunt and uncle were quite couple who love entertaining guests of all kinds at home, and they came to understand that my family life is never dull because having children with Autism keeps things busy and interesting on a daily basis. Although my nephew and nieces may have missed out on learning this lesson and the opportunity to grow closer to our family, I know that I myself have been much more enriched by being fully present to my family on Christmas Day.
How will YOU be fully present to others this coming week? Comment in the space provided.
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