The other day I stopped on my walk to visit two horses who live at the end of my street. One came over almost right away to say hi. He’s gotten used to seeing me on my evening walks in the neighborhood. I often feed him some grass when I stop by, which is probably the real reason he comes so quickly when I stop by.
But this time he didn’t take the grass.
Why? It wasn’t any different from the other times I fed him. And there I was, holding sweet green juicy grass only a few feet away from his head. I even tried talking to get his attention. (As if he speaks English.) He didn’t take it.
It wasn’t that the grass was awful. It wasn’t that he didn’t trust me. In fact, when I first got there he took several bits of grass from my hand. Nope. It was because he didn’t see it.
After I gave him a few handfuls, he found a spot on the ground that had a few nibbles. He was so focused on getting at it that he didn’t see anything around him. Even a much bigger clump of grass that was being handed to him with no effort on his part.
I tried everything to get his attention. Talking, Singing. Dancing in place. Waving it in front of his face. (I couldn’t quite get close enough to touch him.) Finally I just dropped the grass on the ground somewhat near him and said good-bye.
As I walked away, I thought, “How often do I do that? How often do I miss a gift staring me right in face because I’m focused on something else?” Something like a small tidbit I’m trying valiantly to wrest from its place. A problem in another area. Or the fact that something else isn’t perfect.
It could be anything. All it has to do is distract me enough so I stop noticing.
So often that’s all it takes, isn’t it? To notice. And yet we miss so much because we’re distracted or preoccupied.
Have you heard of the study where researchers asked people to count the number of basketball passes between teams in a video? And then a man in gorilla suit waltzes across the screen? 50% of people didn’t even see it, even though it took its time and took up a large portion of the screen.
Then there was the test where researchers superimposed an image of a gorilla on an x-ray of lungs and showed it to radiologists. 83% of them didn’t notice it because they were asked to look for cancer.
It’s great to be able to focus. But sometimes we focus just a bit too much. To the point where we don’t see what’s around us. Or right in front of us. We can focus on what we're doing.
Or on negative thoughts. They can interfere with our noticing too. Noticing a blessing like beauty, love, sacrifice, service. Especially if it’s small and doesn’t knock us down. When it’s quiet and unassuming.
I don’t want to be like that horse. I don’t want to miss blessings because I’m not paying attention. Or because I’m focusing on the negative stuff in my life.
Let’s try an experiment, shall we? Pay attention for the next 3 days, and record the smallest blessing you notice in each of those 3 days. Then leave a comment and share what you noticed. Share with your friends too. Ready? Let’s go. Time to celebrate the little things.