Pay attention.

attention

How much do we really know about the people we see day to day? Sometimes we may inadvertently consider the people around us extras in the movie about our own life rather than complicated individuals with their own stories, hopes, and dreams.

In this remarkable TED talk, Dave Isay shares how he came up with StoryCorp, an attempt to preserve the stories of whole generations of people, including the forgotten and overlooked people in our society.

 

He says:

I wanted to try somethingwhere the interview itself was the purpose of this work, and see if we could give many, many, many people the chance to be listened to in this way. So in Grand Central Terminal 11 years ago, we built a booth where anyone can come to honor someone else by interviewing them about their life. You come to this booth and you’re met by a facilitator who brings you inside.You sit across from, say, your grandfather for close to an hour and you listen and you talk. Many people think of it as, if this was to be our last conversation, what would I want to ask of and say to this person who means so much to me?

He talks about how he looks back on the recorded interview he made with his own, now passed, father and reflects on how vital it is to ask the questions and record the answers. Have we taken the time to ask our parents and grandparents about what life was like when they were young? What their hopes and dreams were. Who mattered to them and why. What they are most proud of and what lessons they have learned.

Imagine how much richer our own histories would be if we could hear about the hopes and dreams of the relatives who came before us. Imagine how much richer our cultural history would be if it were informed by so many perspectives.

He issues an invitation to us all:

At this moment, when so much of how we communicate is fleeting and inconsequential, join us in creating this digital archive of conversations that are enduring and important. Help us create this gift to our children, this testament to who we are as human beings. I hope you’ll help us make this wish come true. Interview a family member, a friend or even a stranger. Together, we can create an archive of the wisdom of humanity, and maybe in doing so, we’ll learn to listen a little more and shout a little less. Maybe these conversations will remind us what’s really important. And maybe, just maybe, it will help us recognize that simple truth that every life, every single life, matters equally and infinitely.

Every life, every single life, matters equally and infinitely.

Pay attention.

attention

Have you ever looked for someone in a crowd? A sea of faces, none the one you’re looking for until…..Pop! She is there- that nose, that hair, those eyes, those mannerisms, that laugh. You would know her anywhere, no matter the size of the crowd. Why is that?

Perhaps it’s because you’ve paid attention to that person. You know her as someone distinct from everyone else. She has become an individual to you. Paying attention, seeing an individual in the midst of the crowd, requires focus. It is easy to look past the individual to see the person before you– even if it is someone in your own family, school, church, city, whatever– as just part of a group. To discover the real person, that individual standing there, you have to zoom in your focus and pay attention.

In this heart-warming video, a teacher greets each of his students with a unique handshake custom-made  for that child. How can the students not see the special place they each have in his heart? What a warm and welcoming classroom that must be!

Zoom in your focus and give generously of your attention.