Cleaning and purging bookcases earlier this week, I ran across a beloved treasure. There on the seldom-seen top shelf, ensconced in a thin layer of dust, was a set of eight slightly-yellowed Laura Ingalls Wilder books about her life growing up on the Midwestern prairies. With a smile I took one down, looked at the 50-years-passed printing date, and snuggled into warm memories.
I was transported back to being seven years old in Iowa and the season when my paternal grandmother, Gladys Buell, traveled from her Kansas home for a visit. Driving an old van, frequenting garage sales and flea markets as she went, Grandma Buell would bring treasures collected along the way. In one visit, she gave me the gift of the prairie in the form of used books. With each page, I was whisked away to the adventures of a young girl named Laura, and I basked in warm memories of my grandmother.
Grandma Buell passed away when I was nine, and I suppose that’s why these books remain as treasures on my shelf. On the phone with a friend during that memory-uncovering cleaning spree, I said, “I want to be like my grandma one day. She was great at quality time.” I smiled, thought of her, and then, dear readers, I thought of you, too.
Being great at quality time comes so easily for some of you. For others of us it takes a bit (or a lot) more practice. The two biggest things I remember about my grandma that I’d like to pass on to you are simple and attainable for almost all: She was present, and she listened.
She was present in that whatever I had in mind, she would be my buddy, my accomplice, and my co-conspirator. She’d stir pancake batter with me or, if I had popcorn balls in mind, she’d take out her dentures and chew along. She listened to my mile-a-minute stories and entertained the questions of a deeply inquisitive mind. I don’t remember what we talked about or what I learned, but I knew unquestionably that in those moments she was all mine.
Being present takes more work these days, it seems. As information overloads our minds, our tablets, and our smart phones, finding and honing one’s attention is more an act of will and purpose than it used to be. To listen truly, deeply, intently is a gift that, once uncovered, opens access to remote areas of relationships and souls.
The great thing is that being truly present is a skill, and like most skills, it can be developed. Over the last decade more than 11,000 people have committed three days to OCL workshops developing that skill, learning the power of presence and the gift of listening.
Finding those Little House on the Prairie books this week inspired me to ponder the kind of mom, daughter, teammate, friend, and (one day) grandmother I’d like to be. With this awareness, I can intentionally make choices now to lead me down that relational path. I wonder, friends, whom, from the dusty shelves of your memories and heart, do you want to be like? Whose influence in your life would you like to emulate for others?
If tools for relational connections could help you on the journey, we’re here for you. Improve your skills with programming on empathy, presence, and listening, or whatever might equip you for the quality time you seek with others.
Practicing presence alongside you—