Such a simple bit of advice that sadly not too many take. Being observant means being aware of the world around us, not merely in the sense of knowing world affairs but more importantly, being aware of how we can enrich our everyday lives.
We miss so much! From morning wake-up to the closing of day, we seem to move through our hectic paces, trying hard to get our work done, cramming as much as we can into the hours, too busy to stop and “smell the roses.” Even if we do give it a thought, we placate ourselves by arguing “the money’s got to be made” or “Someday when I retire” or “When I win the lottery,” but “Not now when I have so much to do.”
In 1954 Sr. Rita Damien was my 7th grade English teacher who one day taught us a first lesson about writing a poem. The class groaned––even I, though I loved writing poetry, but hated being the odd boy out.
One of the class troublemakers yelled out, “Sister, we don’t like poems.”
Sister smiled. She’d heard that line perhaps countless times. “What is a poem?” she asked, and when none of us offered a definition, she went on to say, “A poem is a way of earning a part of the world and saving it on paper.” What did that mean! “For homework today I am sending all of you to the park down the street. I want you to find a flower and examine it, observe its colors, its fragrance, the softness of its petals, the way it bows its head to passing breezes. Then I want you to go home and write a poem about your flower.”
All that I remember of that afternoon was kneeling in the spring grass, reaching out and studying a white daisy with its golden center so I could describe it and write about it in my poem. Since then I have never passed a garden or a grove of trees or a tall mountain without thinking of Sister Rita and her assignment. I can still hear her telling the class, “We are all God’s creatures, sharing his creation!”
We must also observe the people with whom we come in contact. Make an effort to remember names in first encounters. Listen to them when they speak. Sometimes your kind word of praise can mean the difference between a blah day and a joyful one. Plato once wrote, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.”
Of course, writers know how essential being observant is. Without vivid descriptions of people, places, and things, they cannot hope to provide readers with the same images their precise words project.
Another way of acquiring an observing nature is to recognize the fact that there is good and bad in all of us. Those of different political parties, religious affiliations, and ethnicities all have some beliefs we share or at least can understand.
If we are observant we can all learn from one another. We can start to see people and things in a better light. We can cut down the speed of the treadmills we ride to work each day, so instead of seeing the world in a kind of blur in reverse, we can begin to see we are not alone. We need one another to enrich our lives. We’ll care about the environment and we will not object to being our brothers’ keepers when, observing their plight, we extend to them our helping hands.
Salvatore Buttaci is a retired teacher and professor whose work has appeared in The Writer, The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, and elsewhere here and abroad. He was the 2007 recipient of the $500 Cyber-wit Poetry Award. He lives with his wife Sharon in West Virginia.
His collection of 164 short-fiction stories, Flashing My Shorts, is available from Amazon.com as http://www.amazon.com/Flashing-My-Shorts-Salvatore-Buttaci/dp/0984259473/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1369920229&sr=1-1
His follow-up flash collection, 200 Shorts, was just released and available at http://www.amazon.com/200-Shorts-ebook/dp/B004YWKI8O/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1369920397&sr=1-2&keywords=200+Shorts
– Salvatore Buttaci