This is the first, wildest, and wisest thing I know
that the soul exists, and that it is built entirely out of attentiveness.
~ Mary Oliver
Dear RE Parents,
One of the ways that you can carry our monthly theme through November is to talk about the theme at home. You have several ways of doing that – take home the bookmark inserted in your Order of Service, keep it on the table where you share your meals, and talk about the weekly question each day. At breakfast, remind your children what to think about during the day. At the end of the day, ask what they observed or found.
Here are some additional questions you can use!
Exploring Attention Through Discussions
At the Table questions explore the monthly theme through a discussion with all ages. They are designed for a family gathering – maybe during a Friday night meal, a quiet moment in the living room or before a board game night.
Introducing the Activity
What might get your family’s attention in a fun way for these thought-provoking questions this month? Could you copy your five favorite questions onto slips of paper, put them in a hat, and pass them around? Write a few out on sticky notes and affix them to the chairs where you sit to eat? Take turns guessing numbers, one to 14, and then reading out those questions to answer together?
In our Around the Table family time, we want to find a way to experience both consistency and spontaneity, ritual and surprise. Try one of these new presentations or come up with your own to re-engage your family in rich, interesting discussions over meals.
- Who pays better attention? Adults or kids?
- Do you pay better attention when you are sitting quietly and listening or standing and moving around a little?
- Name something that you’ve done to get the attention of your parents or peers.*
- Have you ever been the person who draws attention to another person’s accomplishments, to lift them up and offer praise?
- Would you rather be the center of a group’s attention, or be among the crowd of observers?
- Who is someone whose style you admire, someone whose chosen look gets your attention in a positive way?
- What topic or subject always has your full attention, so that you never feel bored or unfocused?
- How do you know when your pet wants your attention?
- If you had the attention of the United States Congress or the Canadian Parliament for 5 minutes, like Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg did in October of 2019, what would you say to them?
- Sometimes, when our attention wanders, we actually come up with some pretty great ideas or realizations. Describe a recent daydream or wandering thought that was interesting to you
- What’s the best way to get the attention of trusted adults outside of your immediate family, if you needed their help?
- Advertisements and TV commercials use humor and surprise to get our attention. What’s a funny commercial that you’ve seen recently?
- How does it feel to you when you get attention that you DO NOT want, such as when you make a big mistake (or get loudly blamed for one!), or accidentally do something really noticeable?
- Art gets our attention by showing us something unique, moving, beautiful, unsettling, or keenly interesting. Name a piece of art that got your attention in one of these ways, or another, and if you can, find a picture of it to show your companions.
Connection and acknowledgment are basic human needs. Asking for and receiving this kind of attention is seldom problematic. However, sometimes we crave not connection with others, but validation from them, because we struggle to feel as if we are enough in ourselves. This can lead to attention-seeking behaviors or actions that, later, we don’t feel good about. As you dig deeper into this question, try to distinguish between these two types of “getting attention,” the kind that reminds us who and whose we are, and the kind that takes us farther from that authenticity and connection.
And parents, if you’re up for some wider-ranging thoughts on this topic, check out American actor Jason Gordon Levitt’s TED talk on the subject: https://www.ted.com/talks/joseph_gordon_levitt_how_craving_attention_makes_you_less_creative?language=en
Ways to Return to the Discussion Throughout the Week
Thoughts develop with time. Find opportunities to bring up particularly compelling questions again during the month, maybe on walks, rides home, when tucking your child in to bed, etc. If thoughts grew or changed, notice that together, how we are all evolving beings, opening ourselves to new truths and understandings as we live our lives and connect with others.