Monday, June 27, 2016

at·ten·tion (noun) by andrea

at·ten·tion (noun)

The act of close or careful observing or listening

As in: Lately, I am paying more attention to conversations being had and questions being asked about what is going on in America.  Conversations around rights, freedom, justice, racism, sexism, zenophobia and homophobia; inequality in education, housing, pay. The list goes on and on and on: imprisonment of the mind, body and soul; government and corporate corruption; victim shaming and blaming. One would think that acts of and conversations about brutality, of any kind, in the 21st century in the western world would not be polarizing.  But it is. Another subject from which my attention cannot escape.  

Everyone is talking about, writing about, hollering about something valid, worthy and crucial for the survival of someone, maybe even us all.  I don’t really watch the news outlets or read the papers, but somehow all of these issues enter my consciousness and cry out for me to wake up and stand at attention.  At a time in our country when as a collective we seem wealthier, more erudite, more spatially integrated, my attention keeps being drawn to the poor, the undereducated, the marginalized.  Recently, most of the books, articles, tweets, posts and videos crossing my desktop, newsfeeds and suggestions you may find interesting are about these issues.  

The truth is, there is a major part of me that would like NOT to pay attention.  I would like to bury my head in the sand. It is summer break from my demanding yet rewarding job of teaching, and I would like to be relaxing on the beach with a soft read or hanging out with my friends sipping near grown-up drinks living, for the moment, as if we do not have responsibilities.  Instead, my eyes, ears and heart are being assaulted by a bugle call, a reveille of sorts, to pay attention to what is going on in the world today. This seems to be a theme of my most recent summers. I have my own life and the lives of my loved ones to pay attention to also. My grandmother is aging.  My children are transitioning into adulthood and this signals a life change for my husband and me.  There are physical, emotional and spiritual needs to be met all around me. I have friendships to tend. I have prayers to pray and books to read. I have family reunions and stories to write. 

The struggle is this, however:  I am a part of the collective.  It is impossible for me to separate the ills and struggles of my national community from that of my blood relatives and my friends.  There is a trickle down effect.  For example, as I think about being an “older” woman of inspiration and instruction for my younger cousins having their first babies, I must also pay attention to the thoughts of my real fear of the America these precious hued children will be brought up in.  

I was born in 1972 in a desegregated country.  I was brought up in the American South, the supposed seat of racism, barely a decade following the Civil Rights Movement yet I do not think in my entire lifetime have I ever been as concerned as I am now about being black in America. Though major, this is but one of the national issues at hand on which I must focus. 

Alas, I must pay attention because the daily lives of all the children and people who matter most to me could be at stake.  Though this has always been true, I feel it more acutely today.  Maybe it is because I am getting older and the world is in fact changing. Maybe it is because of the sheer volume of stories out there demonstrating the harsh realities of American life. Yet, despite all the schisms and isms happening before my eyes and streaming into my ears,  I remain optimistic and faithful, maybe more cautioned than a couple of decades ago, but hopeful nonetheless.  

And on days like today, when my heart and hippocampus are full, I will turn off the screen and silence the notifications. I will put away the books and articles. I will go have dinner with my girlfriends. I will text silly and sentimental memes to my children.  I will marvel at the wonder that is my growing grandson.  I will make my daily call to my grandmother to reminisce and laugh. I will cuddle with my husband. I will meditate on things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy. I will hope. I will pray. I will remember that God is always good and always paying attention.  I will put my trust in Him and be at peace.



  1. You change the world one prayer, one smile, one written or spoken word at a time. Thank you for changing your world of which I am a small, insignificant part, for the better. This is a charge for all of us to be aware, but to not accept that which we can change through our faith in Christ and our love for one another.

    1. Thank you for your encouragement and taking the time to read this! I didn't know it when I started writing, but by the end I knew exactly what I had to do make a "change through my faith in Christ and love for others." The process of writing helped me to get back there in my heart, not just in my head.

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  3. Thank you my dear sister for such beautiful words. Words that speak of having joy, laughter, pain, fear and hope..sometimes at the same instance. It helps me to think that I need to live like the movie inside out...existing with all my feelings at the same time and unable to isolate joy or fear or sadness. I guess that is truly what it means to be present.
    I loved your writing can't wait for the book because I wanted to keep on reading and crying at the same time.

    1. It's hard work living inside out, but I think you're right, it's how we must live to really be present.

      And no books for this essayist. I have no such aspirations. But you are too kind to say so!