Grandpa's Gaze

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My grandpa does this thing when I visit with him that I never really noticed until recently.
When there is a pause in conversation and I begin to glance around the room, when I look back at him, he smiles. While I look for the next topic to discuss, he has not removed his eyes from me. His gaze warms my heartÖbut also has me wondering, what in the world is he staring at me for? Do I have something on my face? Is he wondering what he is going to have for supper? Or is he contemplating me the way a grandfather does of a grandson, admiring who I am as a person because of who he is as one?

Regardless the reason behind it, it is a feeling I find comforting. His brief smile when our eyes reconnect is a type of blessing for me. It is as if he is saying, ďIím proud of you, grandson.Ē He gets it. He understands the importance of being present.

The same cannot be said when I am with my friends. Not because we donít think the world of each other, but because, we are less present with one another.

When Iím with my grandpa, the only competition I have is age and the effect it has on ears that are 92 years old. With my friends or other members of my family we are very distracted. Most of us have our cell phones on the table waiting for it to flash, ding, or buzz. And when it isnít flashing, dinging, or buzzing, we have a tendency to pick up our phones, gazing into the lights the way my grandfather gazes at his grandsons, hoping to connect with someone something.

I wonder, how much do we miss because of technology?

As I caught myself doing this at lunch last week, I did a little research and Googled statistics about phone use. Here is a stat I found in a Time Magazine article that overwhelms me but doesnít surprise me: The average person looks at his or her phone 46 times every day. [1] The article goes on to say, ďAlthough 46 checks per day is the average, that number varies depending on usersí age group. Those between the ages of 18 and 24 look at their phones most often, with an average of 74 checks per day. Americans in the 25-34 age bracket look at their devices 50 times per day, and those between 35 and 44 do so 35 times each day. Yikes. That is a lot of unnecessary screen time.

Part of what makes Jesus so compelling is his presence with people. Granted, Jesus didnít live in an age where he could Ďconnectí with people through a cell phone. He did, however, travel around with twelve people who were pretty demanding of his time. Jesus knew how to be with people, how to give them all of his attention, and in doing so, validated their lives and their humanness. People in the Gospels felt loved and knew they were loved by simply being with Jesus.

Perhaps you donít have a cell phone and thus this post is irrelevant to you. Or maybe you do have a phone and you have more self-control than the average American. For that I applaud you. For the rest of us, letís make a promise to pay attention more to those with whom we are dining.
Turn off the TV with the floating heads in the background, put aside the newspaper you always read during your meal with your spouse, and leave the cell phone in the car the next time you go out with people. Letís promise that we will do our very best to be completely present to those we share life with. And when there is a pause in conversation, donít be so quick to look away or find something to say.

Instead, just be with each other, gazing at each other in a way God gazes upon us in all our humanity. The way my grandfather gazes at me when we are together.
[Adam Quine, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Lincoln]


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