The lady was walking a cute little dog. It was a lovely day—not too hot, not too cool. The sun was shining, unobstructed by clouds. The lady was looking downward as she walked. She was holding a cell phone to her ear with her left hand and was fully engaged in a conversation. She was oblivious to the beauty around her.
So many people like that woman walk around with cell phones. These devices are convenient and helpful in our busyness. I could not help thinking, however, that the dog walker was missing the beauty around her and, perhaps, opportunities to interact with her immediate environment. What did she miss by not being present to her surroundings? I wonder sometimes if those phones are not like pacifiers for the ears, sort of like pacifiers in babies’ little mouths. What if some stranger could have benefited from a friendly smile from that lady? What if a beautiful bird fluttered by in a colorful feathery flurry, singing a distinctive springtime aria?
My question is, did the lady with the dog miss things to savor because she was not fully present to the moment and to her environment? How much do we all miss if we are so busy and distracted? Do we miss recognizing God’s numerous simple blessings because our attention is taken up with social media or a world that is broadcasting worry material?
Granted, technology can be useful, but it can also interfere with our chances to just be. The first four lines of “Simple Gifts,” a Shaker hymn written by Elder Joseph Brackett, put forth what I mean:
‘Tis the gift to be simple, ‘tis the gift to be free,
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be;
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
Our memories, our current life circumstances, and the ways we define our challenges all affect how present we can be at any given moment. We cannot lose sight of the fact that God, our Creator, didn’t just create us and leave! He is with us all the time and loves us. He isn’t too busy on a phone call to pay attention to us! Psalm 16:7-11 tells us
I bless the Lord who counsels me;
even in the night my heart exhorts me;
I set the Lord ever before me;
with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.
Therefore my heart is glad and my soul rejoices,
my body, too, abides in confidence;
Because you will not abandon my soul to the nether world
nor will you suffer your faithful one to undergo corruption.
You will show me the path to life,
fullness of joys in your presence,
the delights at your right hand forever.
It takes conscious effort on our part to make time to try to be present as who we actually are, with our individual gifts, talents, and potential. Jesus is our example. The Holy Spirit is our helper. And so we love!