Before embarking on any trip, in my family it is a common custom for my husband or myself to ask, "Is everyone wearing shoes?" before we start the car.
This custom developed after I drove to the grocery store one day and discovered one of our children clad only in bare feet.
Recently, as my husband asked this customary question of our four children in the car, he decided to test their attentiveness as well.
All four children were already buckled in and absorbed in their books, when Daddy discovered that our six-year-old daughter was wearing a dress but no pants, a necessity in the colder weather.
Sending her back into the house to get pants, Daddy turned to the other three and said quietly, "I'm going to test who is paying attention. Can you hear me?"
Our four-year-old son looked up immediately and said, "Yes, Daddy."
Daddy waited quietly for the other two children.
Eventually, our eight-year-old son noticed his father waiting in silence and tore himself away from his book to say, "Huh?"
Still, Daddy waited for our 10-year-old daughter, deeply absorbed in her very detailed book. He called her name softly and she finally turned her attention to him, looking at him blankly and then apparently recalling the original instruction he had given to her pant-less sister.
"What?" the 10-year-old said at last. "Pants?"
Our whole family laughed later at Daddy's report of the situation, and he and I lightly ribbed our children, but the incident symbolized to me a very basic and twofold reality of our human nature: our unintentional inattentiveness to those we love and our inattentiveness to the will of God our Father in heaven.
Displaying our love and respect
Showing attentiveness to our loved ones is a very basic way of displaying to them our love and respect.
Giving someone our undivided attention is a small, simple act, but in this technological age of smartphones and screens of every kind, it is becoming an increasingly more difficult one.
As a society, we are in danger of losing the ability to truly listen to our loved ones.
How many times have you found yourself repeating the same question to your iPad-absorbed child? Or how many times does your toddler have to tug at your elbow to pull you away from your smartphone?
Shut the iPad off. Put away the smartphone. Look your loved ones in the eye and truly listen. Be present to them. Let them see that they matter more than technology. In this small and seemingly insignificant way, we can show our love to those we love.
As St. Josemaria Escriva said, "True love means going out of oneself, giving oneself . . . Anything done out of love is important, however small it might appear" (Josemaria Escriva, Christ is Passing By, 1973, p. 102).
Attentive to God's will
In the same way, we need to be attentive to God's will in our lives, which requires clearing away sinful debris and distractions and spending time in prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament.
Prayer is not just unloading all of our problems, either, but just listening, being present, being attentive.
This takes time, precious time, which must belong only to God.
When we are truly attentive to what God is gently calling us to do, we can begin to unite our actions with His love so that we, ourselves, become an extension of His love.
When we are in tune with His will, then our actions can allow God's love -- not ourselves -- to shine through.
As it says in John 3:30, "He must increase, but I must decrease."
If truly I love Him, then my actions are not done for myself but for Him.
Love of God comes first, then action. When you fall in love with Our Lord -- and yearn to be with Him -- then you will strive to please Him, just as we strive to please our loved ones here on earth.
"We are the bride of Christ unveiled; we are His Church. And Jesus wants each and every one of us to enter into the most intimate relationship imaginable with Him" (Scott Hahn, The Lamb's Supper, 1999, p. 127).
We can enter into this relationship not only by being attentive to Him in prayer but also by being open to the grace He showers on us at Mass and in the sacraments. Remember always that when we consume Him in the Eucharist, He shows His love for us by becoming one with us.
In turn, as we continue on our life's journey, we can extend His love to others in small ways, which cannot be accomplished without true attentiveness.
Begin today to show that love, just by taking the time to be truly attentive, both to your loved ones and to God.
Julianne Nornberg, mother of four young children, is a member of St. John the Baptist Parish, Waunakee.