The Power of Paying Attention

There’s a lot of people talking, nowadays, but it sure doesn’t seem like there’s much listening going on. It feels like the noise escalates as people shriek to have their opinions validated and their beliefs heard. As the voices get louder, people stop listening.

The continual clamor on news channels, social media and even in neighborhood meetings reminds me about the importance of paying attention. One of my favorite stories from the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series exemplifies the idea that we all need to be heard.

Jason came from a good family with two loving parents, two brothers and a sister. They were all successful academically and socially. They lived in a posh neighborhood. Jason had everything a boy could desire but he was always into some kind of mischief. He wasn’t a bad kid who caused trouble, but he always wound up in the thick of bad things.

In first grade, Jason, was labeled Special Ed. They tried to keep him out of the regular classes. In middle school he was the “misfit troublemaker.” In high school, although never officially tested, Jason was tagged with having attention deficit disorder. More often than not, his teachers kicked him out of class. His first report card had one C and the rest were Ds.

One Sunday, the family was enjoying brunch at the country club when a teacher stopped and said, “Jason is doing so well these days. We’re pleased and delighted.”

“You must be mixing us up with another family,” said the father. “Our Jason is worthless. He’s always in trouble. We are so embarrassed and just can’t figure out why.”

As the teacher walked away, the mother remarked, “You know, honey, come to think of it, Jason hasn’t been in trouble for a month. He’s even been going to school early and staying late. I wonder what’s up.”

The second nine-week grading period was finally up. As usual, Jason’s mom and dad expected low grades and unsatisfactory marks in behavior. Instead, he achieved four As and three Bs, and honors in citizenship. His parents were baffled.

“Who did you sit by to get these grades?” his dad asked sarcastically.

“I did it all myself,” Jason humbly answered.

Perplexed, and still not satisfied, the parents took Jason back to school to meet with the principal. He assured them that Jason was doing very well.

“We have a new guidance counselor and she seems to have touched your son in a special way,” he said. “His self-esteem is much better and he’s doing great this term. I think you should meet her.”

When the trio approached, the woman had her head down. It took a moment for her to notice she had visitors. When she did, she leaped to her feet and began gesturing with her hands.

“What’s this” asked Jason’s father indignantly. “Sign language? Why, she can’t even hear.”

“That’s why she’s so great,” said Jason, jumping between them. “She does more than hear. She listens.”

Perhaps we can find a way to turn down our volume and turn up our attention.

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