What we must give
“Attention is love, what we must give
children, mothers, fathers, pets,
our friends, the news, the woes of others.
What we want to change we curse and then
pick up a tool. Bless whatever you can
with eyes and hands and tongue. If you
can’t bless it, get ready to make it new.” — Marge Piercy
When I first created my little garret retreat ten years ago, I papered the unfinished walls with images and words that meant something to me. One of the first things to go on that wall was this verse from Piercy.
Attention, it seems, is one of the most endangered gifts in today’s world. When I read Piercy’s assertion that “attention is love,” it had the ring of truth. Why else do we all crave attention, in one form or another, and go to such lengths, in such a variety of ways, to obtain it?
I’d like to be wise enough to see my attention as the finite resource that it is, and guard closely how it is spent. Yet it seems so easy to squander, like a dripping faucet that will quietly waste untold gallons if left to itself. What I fritter mindlessly away, someone else needs. Their need for someone’s attention — possibly my attention — may even be crucial.
I’ve heard people say that they don’t feel they have much to give others. Sometimes when we feel helpless in the face of suffering or sadness, we say “I wish I knew what to do.” Perhaps one place to start is by offering the gift of attention, through a few kinds words, a note, a prayer, or the increasingly rare face-to-face visit.
As Piercy’s words suggest, attention is a starting point, not a destination. But every good thing that happens has a beginning, and often, it begins with someone noticing what others were too busy to see.
What can you bless today? What needs your touch to make it new? Pay attention. Then pick up a tool.
One year ago today: