We live in a world where advances in technology that were meant to free us actually enslave us. Have you seen the video of people walking off curbs, walking into polls, falling into fountains etc. because they’re looking at their phone screens instead of where they’re going? We don’t actually need to watch the video…we can see it play out live around us (as long as our own phones aren’t out distracting us!)
We’ve all witnessed people not giving others their full attention because an incoming text, email, or alert pings on their electronic leash.
Worse, and very likely for each of us, we’ve been that distracted person. It’s embarrassing, the number of times I can recall asking my husband or children to repeat themselves because they’ve told me something I’ve only caught 1/2 of thanks to “advances in technology.”
As I’ve become aware of this short-coming in myself, I’ve tried to establish habits to let people know that they have my attention…if my phone is out when someone in my family begins to talk to me at home, I purposefully put my phone face down and to the side and give them my full attention. While out and about at stores and restaurants, I keep my phone tucked away in my purse or back pocket. If I need to use my phone during an interaction (like open an app for a purchase) I make sure the person I’m interacting with knows that it’s purposeful and not just a distraction.
But I feel there’s another area in our lives where we could, but too often fail to, give more full attention to others.
I cannot say that it has worsened with the advent of cell phones, because I previously hadn’t paid it much heed, but in recent years I’ve become much more aware of a general sense of distraction during the sign of peace at Mass. Maybe it’s because in these most recent years, I’m surrounded by children who take this moment in Mass as a race to see how many hands they can shake, how many pews they can reach across, and whether they can find their friends across the sanctuary.
It’s not just our children though.
So many adults with whom I exchange the sign of peace are shaking my hand, but looking on to see if there’s another hand they have to reach out to. And it struck me deep when I realized I may have been doing the same thing without even realizing it.
Eye contact is a powerful, powerful thing.
And let’s be real- if you are a parent, you have already wielded this weapon in Mass when reigning in the behavior of our more active children. Sometimes it’s just a look, and sometimes that pointer finger comes up, and sometimes, SOMETIMES there’s need for the finger snap. But right now, I’m advocating using that eye contact not as a weapon, but as a tool.
Matthew 6:22 describes the eye as the lamp of the body.
If it takes in light, the soul will be filled with light. This moment in the Mass is our opportunity to fill someone’s eye, and thus soul, with light, and conversely, our opportunity to have our soul filled with light! At Mass this Sunday, please give it a try. Reach out with your right hand to take theirs- maybe even bring your left hand up to clasp their right hand- and draw them into eye contact. Then with real feeling, fill their eyes with the light of Christ.