The Grace of Simply Looking Around

My son: “So are we just gonna sit here and wait, Dad?”
Me: “This is what smart phones are for.”

We are not particularly good at waiting in this impatient age.  Many of us often fill up the dead space between one activity to another staring at our smartphone.  Admittedly, it’s pretty nice to be able to check the news or Facebook or email while at the doctor’s office or DMV.  I can’t remember the last time I’ve read an actual magazine in a waiting room.  Even a short elevator ride finds persons looking at their phone to kill the time.  Guilty.


There is an art and a grace to waiting.  The art is in how we use the time between hope and fulfillment.  Do we fill it up with mindless activities or digital attachments? Do we keep our heads down unable to see the world around?

I was recently asked to take Holy Communion to an inmate in the city jail. I do this on occasion, so I know the drill:  Leave my smartphone in the car and wait for about 30 minutes before they call me back.  That half hour seems interminable without my phone.

reading_cereal_boxThe only reading materials in the lobby are religious tracts and the policy postings on the wall.  I’ve read them all.  This last visit, while standing there waiting, and realizing that I had nothing else to read, I was reminded of the days when I would read the cereal box while eating a bowl of cereal. Nowadays the phone is my cereal box!

O come, divine Messiah!
The world in silence waits the day

I feel like I don’t ‘wait’ enough in Advent.  With so many activities going on – parties, plays, church activities, and shopping – it seems that in a way I miss the gift of Advent every year.  There isn’t enough time to be still and watch and wait.  We sing “The world in silence waits the day” at Mass but how silent in Advent are we really?  It feels pretty noisy to me.

Sitting in the jail lobby, I realized that just like I miss Advent for all the busyness, I miss a lot when I crowd those waiting spaces checking my phone .  Sure, I may get a lot done via email or catch up on the news, but I miss watching the world go on around me.  How many times have we missed the cordial smile of a stranger because we won’t look up for the opportunity?  Might God have something to say to us in the sights and sounds nearby?

It’s the grace of simply looking around – taking notice of seemingly insignificant moments and occurrences that we may miss if we are too busy trying to stay connected via binary code and social media algorithms.

We have nine days left in Advent.  Let us prepare Him room with a novena of waiting, watching, and listening to the subtle Incarnations of the world around us.

One thought on “The Grace of Simply Looking Around

  1. Pingback: The Grace of Simply Looking Around — Liturgical Publications

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