A Lenten Reflection
by Charles McKelvy
On the matter of undivided attention, I must confess that I divided my attention recently when talking to a friend.
Ironically, he had just made a point about the importance of listening with full and undivided attention when another friend appeared.
I broke away from the first friend to talk to the other friend, and when I returned my attention to the original speaker, he was angry.
So much so that he said in effect: “You’re a talker, not a listener.”
He went on to say that the problem with people today is that we all talk at each.
We do not listen.
He indicted me with those words.
And, yes, I certainly heard him say that one learns by listening, not by talking.
Indeed, as an Oblate of Saint Benedict, I attend daily to The Rule of Saint Benedict, which begins with this sentence: Listen carefully, my child, to the master’s instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart. This is advice from a father who loves you; welcome it, and faithfully put it into practice.
Is there a message there?
One that I might faithfully put into practice?
I think so.
And, as reluctant as I am to admit it, I am convinced my friend was right in admonishing me that day for not giving him my full and undivided attention.
I recently gave a clarinet concert, and, as I was playing, I looked around the room and noticed that more than a few audience members were texting. Their thumbs were all over those little smart screens of theirs and they were giving their full and undivided attention to persons elsewhere.
Of course it hurt.
But I knew that if I stopped and pointed my finger at them, then I would be pointing three fingers back at myself.
As we say around the table: If you spot it, you got it.
I got it, all right.
And in the little left of Lent, I intend to take on the virtue of listening to others with my full and undivided attention. And I intend to carry on in this manner on Easter Sunday and beyond.
I’ll report back.
Meanwhile, may I repeat the immortal words of Saint Benedict for your benefit and mine: Listen carefully, my child, to the master’s instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart. This is advice from a father who loves you; welcome it, and faithfully put it into practice.