- BC Games
Getting your attention
When my mom was eight she was enrolled in Confirmation classes at the orphanage. The girls’ class started just after supper with everyone assembled in a classroom wearing their uniforms. At about seven o’clock an elderly gentleman entered the room to teach the catechism. He was short and slight, but the girls were absolutely fascinated by him. That’s because, despite his advancing years, his hair was jet black. Unlike most of their teachers, he didn’t teach from the blackboard but rather leaned back casually against the glossy white wall next to it.
For an hour the man spoke at length about the rules and regulations of the church. And for the entire time, he had their rapt attention. I asked my mom what she learned from him.
“Nothing,” she replied. “But you said he was fascinating.”
“In a way. What we were really trying to do was figure out what that smell was?”
“Yes, he had the strangest smelling aftershave. Very familiar, but strange.”
“So what happened?”
“Not much. He talked for an hour and then left the room. He did seem very pleased that we were so quiet and attentive.”
“Did you ever figure out what the smell was?”
“Sure did. Because when he stopped leaning against the wall, there was a huge black streak where his head had been.”
“So what was the familiar smell?”
“Black shoe polish!”
As a chaplain I often visit elderly residents in care facilities. Sometimes, no matter how well received I think my message is, people aren’t paying attention. I often read a comforting passage of scripture but the responses I get can be surprising. One elderly lady listened politely one afternoon as I spoke and when I’d finished she nodded and leaned forward and said: “I’ve thought about it a lot but I can’t marry you.” “What?” “I’m sorry. But I just can’t see myself being happy as a pastor’s wife.” I didn’t exactly know how to respond but muttered: “I’ll try my best to understand.”
Even famous people aren’t immune to absent minded responses. One time Carol Burnett was having great difficulty in getting through to her young daughter. Despite her repeated attempts to change the girl’s behaviour, nothing seemed to work. One night Carol sat her down and tried to reason with her. And suddenly it was as if a cloud had been lifted. The little girl was enraptured with her mother’s words. For once she wasn’t fidgeting or staring off into space. No, she was truly ‘in the moment’ gazing at her mother with rapt attention. When Carol was finally finished she smiled and asked, “Do you have any questions, honey?” The little girl responded, “Yes, mommy. Just how many teeth do you have?”
Ray Smit’s humorous new book, The Trouble With Tapioca, is now available through Amazon.com.