The Art of Awareness

Ever deeply admire a trait in people that most others overlook? I deeply appreciate and admire awareness. I respect it when people are conscious of others around them and what they are doing. Likewise, I am absolutely astounded at the lack of awareness that some people demonstrate.

Recently, Tina and I were travelling out of state and were at a local grocery store. When we pulled in the parking lot, we noticed a young lad that worked for the store, collecting about 5 grocery carts. As he was wheeling them in through the front doors of the store, he suddenly stopped right in the middle of the doorway. The couple in front of us pulled up abruptly and so did we. I looked around the logjam to see what was holding him up. There was nothing and no one in the grocery cart holding area. He was apparently daydreaming. I said, “Excuse me”, to which he responded, “Oh, sorry” as he promptly moved to the side (but left the 5 carts in the doorway) and added, “let me get out of everyone’s way”. I laughingly told Tina that I was sure somewhere in the training manual it said to never physically block customers from getting into the store.

Now, this incident wasn’t a big deal and it literally inconvenienced us for a grand total of 3 seconds. But, it was the genesis for this blog because it was a glaring example of someone so self-absorbed that he lost all awareness of the others around him, not to mention his job.

One of the things I regularly say to our staff is, “You can’t fix the problem you can’t see”. If there is a perpetual problem happening in their specific ministry, the first thing I ask is; can they see it? I surmise if it happens repetitively, they cannot. And, if they can’t see the problem, they can’t fix it.

When preparing a team to go on an international ministry trip I stress the importance of cultural awareness. One of the easiest ways to honor the culture of the places we visit is it to pay attention to the way they do things, and then do it like they do. If they sit on the floor when they eat their food, then we sit on the floor while we eat our food. If they eat the bones, we eat the bones. If they kick their shoes off before entering the house, then we do the same.

Being aware of other people allows us the opportunity to anticipate their needs and to serve them. Recognizing their unique way of doing things allows us the opportunity to honor them by trying it ourselves. For more on this subject, go to


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