The following post is offered by Spirited Life Wellness Advocate, Lisa MacKenzie.
“Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind; ‘Pooh?’ he whispered.
‘Nothing,’ said Piglet, taking Pooh’s hand. ‘I just wanted to be sure of you.’”
– Winnie the Pooh, by A.A. Milne
Sometimes we all need to be sure that we’re not alone and that someone cares and is paying us some attention– especially when we’re feeling vulnerable. Some of us might even be having a “Piglet moment” right now.
I recently read an essay entitled Practicing a Life of Prayer by Sam Portaro,* in which he describes a spiritual practice of paying attention. Portaro says: “When I pay attention, I don’t have to remind myself of God’s presence in my life; God is nearly always present and manifest and recognizable in the other, the one in whom and to whom I have paid my attention.”
It takes practice to pay attention and to be aware in the present moment. Sometimes we don’t stop to think about our child who looks at us with longing while we’re racing off to a meeting, or the clerk who has been standing behind a counter for hours and sighs deeply as she bags groceries, or the pastor who has just moved his family to a new town this summer. Paying attention is one of the greatest gifts we’re given by God because it leads us to not only care for others but for ourselves as well.
When I was a young nurse, I’ll never forget a middle aged man with cancer who I cared for on the night shift. It was back in the day when patients had to wait for an injection of pain medication until the 4 or 6 hours were up. This patient was very uncomfortable, and I was in a hurry to request an order from his doctor to administer the pain medication sooner. As I hurried from his bedside, he reached for my hand and said, “don’t leave, please.” In that moment, my patient taught me one of the most important lessons I have ever learned- pay attention. He was scared and alone and needed someone to be present– to touch him, to hold his hand. And when I did that, for a moment his pain eased.
In his book Out of Solitude, Henri Nouwen wrote a meditation on care saying that we tend to look at caring as an attitude of the strong toward the weak, the powerful toward the powerless; yet the word “care” is rooted in the Germanic “kara,” which means to lament, to grieve, to cry out with. It seems that being present is the foundation of care, but to really be present we have to pay attention. We have to stop so that we, like Portaro writes, can recognize the presence of God in the other. Pooh understood this and willingly offered this gift to Piglet without giving advice or finding a solution– because sometimes we just need to be sure that someone is present with us.
*Sam Portaro’s article can be found in William S. Craddock’s All Shall Be Well: An Approach to Wellness.