Recently I have been challenged by the thought ‘are you engaged?’ Now I know some of you might think, ‘what the heck are you talking about, aren’t you married’? Well, yes, I am, for 27 amazing years now. Others of you might be thinking ‘she must be talking about her daughter who just got engaged’; well, that too did happen recently and I am real excited about my daughter and soon to be son-in-law! But, the thought actually came to me one Sunday morning and has been stirring in my head ever since. At first I thought it was just something for me. The thought wouldn’t leave and somehow, I wonder if maybe I’m not the only one who struggles with this? Maybe you too have encountered this? Engage with me and let me know!
Picture being in a room with others – are you the person over in the corner alone? Are you the one in the middle of the crowd chatting? Are you the one on the outskirt of the one in the middle listening in? how about that person over there? Yes, there… what are they doing…what are you doing? Are you tuning out, tuning in or just kind of coasting?
How about your work environment? If your job is at the computer, are you gazing at it mindlessly or are you hooked in? If your job is sales, are you praying the person would just leave you alone or do you jump on the customer as soon as they walk through the door? If you do jump on them, are you really listening to them or are you just trying to sell your product? What is your job? What does it look like? Who are the people in that world? Do you connect with them or do you pass each other daily, consumed in your own world and your own problems never giving much thought to their world?
It was the fifth Sunday of the month when this thought came crashing in on me and began to captivate every area of my life. I had just recently volunteered to work once a month in our church nursery. It had been many years since I had taken on this class and somehow, I thought I would only be dealing with baby-babies. You know, feeding them, burping them and changing their diapers. Well, much to my amusement, there were 4 children between the ages of 18 months and 3 years old, along with my helper, needing me to be connected. Honest confession: after the first ten minutes I thought, ‘oh my goodness, what am I going to do with these little ones? why didn’t I prepare a lesson?’! I told myself that the reason I didn’t prepare a lesson was that I thought I was going to have ‘babies’ (boy, would I know better next time)! LOL… it was then that I heard it, ‘you need to engage with them.’ Huh?? ‘Yes, you need to engage with them’.
Engage with them? Yes, that would work. One of the things I learned having children is that you need to enter their world and get them involved or, to put it another way, engage with them, on their level, in their world. Here I sat with four precious little ones, two on the verge of crying, one super shy and afraid of the ones about to cry and the other one thinking what’s going on? Okay Lord, help me here (I silently prayed). Again, there it was, ‘engage with them’. O.K., let’s try this. What could I possibly do to ‘engage’ with these 4 little ones that would keep all of them interested and that they could all be included in? [Rabbit trail: ok, so I have 4 grown children, 2 of them have special needs and there were times in this kind of environment, that they were left out and part of my mission in life is to make people, big or little, realize how important and special they are and find a way to include them. End rabbit trail – haha!] Hmm… the thought came to play ‘Ring around the Rosie’, everyone could do that. One by one I gathered the little ones and the helper – well, almost all of them. One little guy was so into playing with his cars that he was like, no thank you. We started singing and circling and I was still thinking about this one little guy that had refused. After one or two rounds with the little ones all now engaged and giggling as we circled, I once again invited the little car-guy to join us and this time, he realized what fun we were having and took my hand. It broke the ice and we laughed as we circled and ‘fell down’. From there we went on to do some other activities like reading a bible story, singing, playing with playdough, to name a few but the phrase ‘be engaged’ kept running through my head and keeping me focused. By the end of that class, I have to admit, I had an amazing time loving on these little ones but more than that, because I chose to connect with them and ‘engage’ on their level, we all had a ball!
That week my grandchildren were also visiting from Pennsylvania for a few weeks. In the beginning of their visit, I was feeling a little out of sorts, kind of like ‘I’m not sure how to be a grandma’. They are ages 14 and 6 and due to reasons I won’t get into right now, I didn’t have a lot of relationship with them. Then I heard it again, ‘engage with them’. Okay, how do I do that? In today’s age of technology, it seems there is always something going, whether it be the television, phones, technical devices like iPads, tablets, etc. To give those in our lives undivided attention and ‘engage’ is one of the most amazing gifts we have for each other, yet many times in today’s world, so hard to do. It first came about through playing a game with them, then a ride to the store, then a game of miniature golf, you get the picture. I was so blessed to have them with us for those three weeks! By connecting with them, where they were, we made some memories and had fun!
That phrase has invaded my life since that Sunday. One night shortly after becoming conscious of being engaged, my husband and I were watching something and the speaker we were listening to had talked about something and then added how we needed to be engaged in it. I turned to my husband all excited and said, ‘Oh my goodness, what did he just say?’ Now you have to picture this, we were watching a video on our bed, my husband is up at 4 a.m. for work and unbeknownst to me, he had fallen asleep. When I jumped up and said that, he looked at me with those glassy-eyes and said, ‘tell me, what did he say?’ (I have a feeling in his head he might have been thinking, ‘really he said a lot of things, just give me a clue.’) Hahaha – it was like he was afraid to say the wrong thing, it was then I realized in my excitement, I woke him up. Hahaha- the things we sometimes do to each other!! Dan was so amazing – he was like, no really, what was it and sat there and tried to engage as I told him how this phrase and reality had been haunting me.
When I say haunting me, the truth is, I tend to be an introvert. I love people and I love to connect with them but I need my alone time to recharge; it’s very easy for me to unhook and want my alone time. The awesome thing I came through this time with was that it is so important to engage with people where they are, it helps us connect in relationships, it helps our work to flow. One of the things I saw is that sometimes we can engage so well on inanimate things like phones, computers, etc.; We forget the importance of engaging in our everyday relationships and the people we encounter every day. How about that person you work with – yes, it’s a work relationship but what do you know about them? Let’s bring it closer home – how about those who live with you? Do you cross like two ships in the night, never making time to engage and seek each other’s interests or to connect on a mutual thing?
I don’t know, maybe it’s just me who has these struggles… or maybe not… maybe, just maybe you never thought about it? Maybe you will be like me since that day and begin to look at those things you do, the people you do life with and begin to ask yourself, ‘am I engaged’?