What we must give

There are all sorts of ways to give the gift of attention. Photos taken 1996-2014

There are all sorts of ways to give the gift of attention.
Photos taken 1996-2014

“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:

Pay attention

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.


  1. Lydia E Gama

    I love this meditation! I think this is such an important aspect of our relationship with others. Most of the people I know are good listeners (and good talkers, too) so when I encounter somebody who interrupts or changes the conversation to focus on herself I don’t know what to do, so I usually just listen. I have taken care of my 6 year old granddaughter since she was a baby. When her sister came, nothing changed until the little one started talking. Now she wants to talk, and talk, and the older one gets frustrated. Interestingly enough, Sofia, the 6 year old, doesn’t interrupt the little one. She just looks at me. I think she learned that you wait your turn. So, now I have to tell Emilia to wait because Sofia wants to say something. I guess we model behaviors to our children and grandchildren without even noticing. Listening to others is so vital.

    • You are teaching them behaviors that are more valuable than ever! Ones I need to learn myself. The world is so full of wonder and most of us are eager to share what we have seen and done, but listening can be equally delightful. Most of us who like to talk never quite outgrown our need to focus more on listening. Sofia and Emilia could teach me a think or two! 😀 Lovely names, by the way.

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