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Have you ever read “Traveling Mercies” by Anne Lamott? I’m in the middle of it right now and am taking my time reading it because the writing is so wonderful. It’s got me interested in the whole idea again, so I’m back.

I closed my eyes a minute ago after writing for a while. I tried that Buddhist thing of seeing the thoughts go by in your head, acknowledging them, and letting them pass by. Well heck, that’s like trying not to know that the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade is going by when you’re standing on Broadway. I’m not THAT much of a Buddhist yet… So I decided to write about some of the floats (not floaters) that were passing by my mind’s eye.

The other night we attended a kids’ concert at a nearby school. One of our little gal pals was performing and she invited us to come. In my life, it’s rare that I am in the audience at such an event, having grown up playing and singing music, so I had to remember how to be a listener. 

From youngest to oldest, the various groups performed, starting with some pretty bad first-year violinists, followed by a chorus. They weren’t bad. I was particularly fascinated with a little girl in the front row who was considerably more animated than those around her. In fact, she was quite entertaining. I would have enjoyed watching her even more if this obnoxious woman hadn’t kept walking up and down the aisle with a camera–back and forth, back and forth–we had just gotten a lecture on concert etiquette, and though they didn’t say she couldn’t/shouldn’t do that, I felt it was implied. 

The little cherubs finished up, and who should end up sitting behind us but the obnoxious woman and my little animated friend–they were related! They were excited and chatted as the next group set up. 

So much for listening, or even being able to. The excited chatter behind us did not abate when the music started up again. In fact, in order to hear each other over the music, they just got louder. Trying first with my body language to give them a hint, I sat up straighter in my chair, craned my head farther forward, even turned it so that my best ear was forward, but the noise continued.

I’m not saying that the music that was being impinged on was any more worth hearing than what they were saying to each other (something about having lost 4 pounds last week), but it was the principle. Finally, as nicely as I could, I turned around and said something like, “Can you guys hold off until the music is over?” They did pipe down, but as so often happens when I am forced to do the right thing, however uncomfortable, I could feel eyes glaring at me, like the time I had to tell a bunch of people at JC Penney that the pair of jeans they were trying to buy for 75% off were not actually that price–that someone had placed them on the wrong table. Not to be put off, they followed me to the register to wait for the manager and stood there, piercing me in the temple with their eyes. I said, “Please don’t glare at me!” to which the customer responded, “I’ll do whatever I want!”

Anyway, the chatty ones finally left, but I was still bothered at the lack of respect these people were showing for the other performers. Sure, I’ve been known to make a comment in the middle of a concert, but not a full-out conversation! My mama raised me better than that…

Speaking of Mama, Happy Mother’s Day to all you gluttons. What are you, nuts? I guess I shouldn’t say that since some nut bothered to birth me some 44 years ago. Me, and a whole pile of others. She must have realized the absurdity of that and turned in her official mother card before she was done. Good thing another even more gluttonous mother-type offered to take over. Bless her soul for that particular sacrifice, among the many others she’s made. Hats off to ye mums….

But back to the original premise and how we are raised to behave. I was fortunate growing up that my parents felt it important to expose us to many kinds of performances, not just for the fulfillment of the cultural part, but to also teach us how to behave in such situations. We didn’t always comply at the time, but as we became performers later, we understood how important it is to have an audience give you the honor of their full attention after all the work you’ve put into the performance. 

People, just because your part of the show is over, where people have sat raptly and paid attention to YOU, doesn’t mean that you get to just run willy-nilly and blow off the rest of the performance! Sit down, shut up, and pay attention!

As I was saying about Anne Lamott, “Traveling Mercies” is about her jouney of faith, of stumbling through the tangles that eventually get us to a clearing of peace. Sometimes the voices in our heads, the marching bands, the chattering audiences, take us away from the silence that allows us to hear the most important messages. God stands up there, clearing his throat, tapping the microphone, looking around as he waits for us to shut up and pay attention. Is it really that important that the rest of us know you lost 4 pounds this week? God already knows and he wants you to quit bragging and listen to what he has to say NOW. 

“Ahem….Can I have your attention, please….Hey, is this thing on?” 

Categories: Life
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