By now you may have heard about the progress report my younger daughter came home with several years ago that said: “Distracted in large groups.”
You may also know (or can relate to) the fact that this comment did not surprise me. Since she was a toddler, this child has offered astute observations of the world around her. But what did surprise me is how badly she wanted to know what those words next to the low mark said. I hesitated, sensing this was a pivotal moment that could define her sense of self.
Telling my daughter not to worry about it didn’t seem right and neither did being dishonest. So, after pointing out all the positives on the progress report, I gave her truth.
Upon hearing the news, my freckle-faced kindergartner looked down shyly. With an uncertain smile, she said, “Yeah, I do look around a lot.”
That’s when I bent down, looked her straight in the eye, and described all the important things she notices each day – people’s hurts, people’s joys, people’s names … where the car is parked (thank goodness), where her big sister left her library book (thank goodness) … the tiniest seashells, and the biggest, puffiest clouds … who is being left out, who got a new haircut, and who has a peanut allergy.
The word “Noticer” came to mind as I assured my daughter she did not need to change. “I don’t ever want you to stop noticing because that is your gift,” I said with conviction. “It is your gift that you give to the world.”
Out of all the conversations I’ve had with my child, now ten years old, that conversation ranks among the most important. As time passes and Avery continues to grow, I marvel at her evolution as a Noticer. My initial instinct to deem her “distractedness” a gift rather than a problem is often confirmed in powerful ways. This week, we received one such confirmation. Avery had applied to become a member of the Safety Patrol at her elementary school next fall. The application required a written paragraph as to why the student thought he or she was well suited for the job. I marveled at the way Avery sat at the kitchen table writing that short essay. She needed no help from me.
“I would be a good safety patrol in school next year because I love helping and guiding kids. I am also very observant and will not let anyone get hurt! If someone does get hurt, I will help them. Lastly, I would be having lots of fun while helping out. This seems like a great job for me. That is why I, Avery Stafford, would make a good safety patrol.”
I smiled at her convincing words. Her “distractedness” was hardly a problem; it was her “gift,” and it had the power to protect lives.
A week passed, and Avery came home to report she’d been selected. I’d barely gotten out my congratulations when she expressed sadness for her classmate who did not get selected.
“How did you know she didn’t get selected? Did they announce it?” I asked.
“No, I saw her face; I just knew,” she said sadly.
I have no doubt my daughter’s assumptions were correct. Noticers are perceptive. They just know.
I hugged my daughter and thanked her for noticing and caring so much for others. I reminded her that very quality was the quality that would make her such a great Safety Patrol.
Oddly or perhaps not so oddly, I thought of my child’s new role as I watched the devastating news unfold about the recent terrorist attack outside the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester. I became obsessed with the homeless man, Chris Parker, who picked himself up from the blast to aid lost children and comfort the wounded. News reports praised Chris for cradling a dying woman and wrapping a bloodied child in merchandise t-shirts. The press called him a hero, but I am quite certain he is a Noticer.
Upon seeing the news reports, the man’s estranged mother put out a plea to reunite with her son. “No matter what’s happened in the past, Chris has done so well, and I am very proud of him,” she added.
Rest assured, Mama, a Noticer will find your son, I thought to myself tearfully.
I’ve been praying about Chris and his mother’s reunion. I hope when she looks at him, she does not see his past mistakes or his “problem” areas. I hope she looks him straight in the eye and says, “I see you. I see your inner gifts. I am so proud to call you my son. I love you.”
It’s never too late to say the things you wished you’d said years ago.
It’s never too late to look at someone and see their “flaws” in a whole new light.
It’s never too late to wrap your arms around your Noticer and say, “I’m sorry I didn’t see your light before.”
Yesterday I filed through the papers on my desk until I found the gift Avery gave her father and me in February as our Valentine’s Day gifts. She prefaced the gifts by saying they were the most important folders we will ever own. Two “How to Be a Noticer” folders had been handed to us proudly. What seemed humorous a few months ago seems critically important now. Perhaps Avery knew Noticer Training would be in order, and she was born to lead that initiative.
I look at the Noticer checklists inside the folder and see it’s about having heightened awareness—looking around … paying attention … taking in life’s most important details and responding with heart.
I hope the world takes notice.
Let’s start right here …
Perhaps you love a Noticer. Perhaps you are a Noticer. Some very special people possess the Noticing gift but are made to feel like it’s a problem, so they hide it, squelch it, or numb it.
Let’s not do that anymore.
I’d like more people to embrace their Noticing gifts proudly. That’s why I give updates on the Evolution of my Noticer who was once called Distracted. Her latest progression feels like the most monumental one yet. She is about to begin her new role of keeping kids safe … sensing troubling situations … running toward, not away, from the hurt, the scared, and the lost. Just like Chris Parker did.
Could there be a more important job?
I don’t think so.
I share this latest update in hopes it reaches a parent wondering if acceptance is the right response when the system is telling you differently.
I share this update today in hopes it reaches that distracted little boy or girl feeling like there is something wrong with him or her.
There is not.
I share this update today in hopes it reaches that grown-up little boy or girl still carrying the shame of low marks and negative comments about who you are.
You are perfect.
And we need you desperately.
Because the truth is,
We are all just waiting for someone to notice—notice our pain, notice our scars, notice our fear, notice our joy, notice our triumphs, notice our courage. And the one who notices is a rare and beautiful gift.
(from Only Love Today)
I close this post with a message I received from a sixty-year-old woman. She wrote, “When I was six, my dad took me to the circus, and I kept turning around. My dad scolded me and told me I needed to watch the show. I rather watch the people behind me. All my life I thought there was something wrong with me. Now I know, there is not. I am a Noticer.”
It’s never too late to see yourself in a whole new light.
Let go of that shame, and let your light shine, dear Noticers.
The world is safer with your bright eyes upon it, looking out for who to help next.
For bite-size inspiration and simple strategies to know and understand your Noticer or a loved who is perceived as “different,” please consider my latest book, ONLY LOVE TODAY: Reminders to Breathe More, Stress Less, & Choose Love. It is a flip open, read anytime/anywhere source of daily encouragement with emphasis on and strategies for loving ourselves and children “as is.” ONLY LOVE TODAY is a $2.99 eBook special for the month of May! Just a few days left to take advantage of that price. Thanks to all who are using the beautiful hardcover version as a gift for anyone who is in need of hope and positivity.
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