“God’s love is meteoric,
his loyalty astronomic,
His purpose titanic,
his verdicts oceanic.
Yet in his largeness
nothing gets lost;
Not a man, not a mouse,
slips through the cracks.”
I was sitting at the breakfast table earlier, reading the above verse, when I noticed one of the periods on the page was moving. It broke away from the sentence and began to scuttle across the page. I blinked, and lost sight of the little brown bug, no bigger than a . for a moment, before being able to track his progress down the page again. I could distinguish no detail about this tiny creature, except that he was moving, alive, worth noticing.
I spend most of my time working, getting through emotions and crises, head down, task at hand. But that little bug, and that beautiful bit of psalm have reminded me of the importance of noticing – for noticing is a difficult but important act in a world that bombards our senses, and makes us want to turn everything off, or blink and move on.
I spent much of my life wanting to be noticed. Through what I wear, how I write, who I talk to, what kind of career I want, I’ve been cultivating a reputation based on being noticed, being singled out, being special. Part of being human is wanting to be special and appreciated. Our emotional wounds often stem from being rejected, our efforts and work going unnoticed or unrewarded, our personhood devalued when someone decides to ignore us. Deep hurt and destructive overcompensation results when parents who fail to notice their sons and daughters and their need for love and attention.
Ambition, vandalism, celebrity scandal, institutional and political cover-ups all chase after, or run away from Notice. Some of the greatest injustices and crimes committed have their roots in the fact that nobody noticed or paid attention, or that a decision was made that a person or a race were not worth noticing.
Advertising exists to make us notice for the sake of selling something, journalism (at its noblest) works to bring notice to stories worth telling, and when governments, churches and people say, “We notice this person, this event, this situation – because it is worth noticing, it is worth mentioning,” justice, recognition and healing can begin. Mysteries, both scientific and spiritual, can be solved when someone notices something (a particle, a prayer, a mis-translated word) that others may have missed.
Where I work, people are used to going unnoticed or used to being noticed solely for their part in an infamous community. In the rush of the lunch crowd, my head is often down, just trying to get the food into waiting hands, as people stream by me, unnoticed save for the kind of dressing they want on their salad, or their lack of correct change. When I do look up, and smile, and give a few more seconds to the person in front of me, everyone relaxes, people slow down, the line-up gets friendlier.
Every morning, several old men come for oatmeal, and the fact that I notice and remember their specific tastes (one likes a small spoon, another likes an extra splash of milk, one always needs extra sugar) makes them stand a little straighter, feel noticed. I get stories and tidbits of news, smiles and good wishes instead of grumbles, bits of oral history that might have otherwise been lost.
What moved me most this week, as I sat in the community office, resting between the rush of breakfast and lunch, was a small, handwritten sign tacked to the wall. The writing was brave and wobbly, the authour on a mission that was more important than his ability to communicate it grammatically. It says simply, ‘Todey, I get up. I go outside. I will notice. And I can give and live.”
One could read this post and walk away with a Starbucks ‘Way I see it’ message of “stop and smell the roses,” but I think that noticing is a powerful act that goes far beyond filling one’s senses. Noticing means that we are aware of life happening around us, affirming that people are important and worth noticing. Noticing humility, good work, kindness, suffering, heroism, bravery, faithfulness instead of manufactured celebrity, gossip, rumour, sensationalism and superficial beauty is a holy act.
When we notice something together as a community, revolution, redemption and restoration can and does happen. When we notice those we love, they receive our care and attention, when we notice the good but often unappreciated actions of our co-workers, they are encouraged to continue, when we notice the needs of strangers, we can serve, and when we notice injustice or brokenness, we can act.
So what will you notice today?