Saturday, September 7, 2019

How Noticing can be Life-Changing

Four words slide together, forming a question that I utter several times a day. Four words form a backbone of the education I present to my children. Four words that, I hope, we can all ask our children, ask each other, ask ourselves.

One day, I was reading a book to my children; it was a simple, ordinary ritual we participate in often. Like many parents, after I read the words on a page, I asked my son: What do you see? It was some sort of attempt at grasping his comprehension, I guess. I wanted to know if he could identify elements of the pictures that were splashed across the page. Of course, this wasn't always the most peaceful occasion for me as I would grow bewildered and frustrated by how my child couldn't "see" an obvious picture.  

However, I suddenly realized that I had been asking the wrong question. As we sat on that mottled couch, a book spread across our laps, I resolved to ask something else.

"What do you notice?"

I can't recall what my child said, but I do remember that his response was not what I expected. While I thought he'd point out the rather obvious elements of the picture, he instead directed my attention to something obscure. I became intrigued, wanting to explore the world through his eyes and observations. So, these four words-just this one simple question-entered our daily lexicon. While reading books, while walking through the neighborhood, while exploring the park, and while baking together, I began asking my son this question. His responses continually amazed me. 

I remember in particular one day, when we were walking down a street in our neighborhood. A tree dangled leaves above our heads. I thought my firstborn would comment on the leaves that so prettily hung around us. Instead, what did he tell me he noticed? The sound of the wind.

As I asked this question over and over, day after day, my way of thinking shifted. I began this exercise as a way to help my son, but I found that it was helping me. I was starting to look at the world differently. During walks, during play, during work, and during prayer, I began to take a short moment to recognize what I notice. I've found that "noticing" is a bit different from simply "seeing." Our eyes see many things, but just because we see something does not mean we truly notice it and let that observation take root in our minds and hearts. Furthermore, noticing goes beyond mere sight. We use all of the senses that God gave us as we notice different aspects of this beautiful world. 

It is so easy to become mindless in our work and relaxation. Our world is saturated with noise and visual stimulation, and sometimes, we can grow overwhelmed by all of it. By slowing down and recognizing one thing that I notice, I have been able to better grasp a sense of peace. I have grown in awe at the gifts God has given me-from the tickle of grass on my toes to the beauty of a stormy sky, to the gentle rhythm of the music that plays at the coffeeshop. 

What if we all began asking ourselves this question? If we all began taking just a moment to let these four words sink in, what kinds of miracles will we begin to notice? We may notice a small flower next to the sidewalk that brightens our day. We may notice different melodies of birds singing, a symphony that surrounds us in the morning hours. Perhaps, we may even begin to notice each other. 


  1. This is one of the best posts I've read in a long time! It's amazing how much one question, or even one word, can change how we communicate with & understand one another! So many times, our questions can be closed-ended and really not get to the heart of the matter.

    1. Lianna, thank you! I'm so glad this spoke to your heart. I think you make a great point about closed-ended questions; I've still found myself asking those kinds of questions at times, and it's something that I'm continually working on getting past!

  2. This is beautiful, AnneMarie! We could all use the reminder to approach the world with a little more awe and wonder. This is such a good question.