Most parents will tell you that each of their children has a special gift that contributes to the health and wealth of the family. One offspring is the empathic one that senses when another family member is sad. One is the conversationalist who brings lots of questions and reports to the family table. Yet another is the life of the party who entertains the lot, keeping the mood (and noise level) high.
I recently had cause to reflect on these individual gifts of the kids I raised who are now adults in whom I can see the fullness of some special attributes. One of these young adults is the person I think of as the Professional Noticer. She’s always watching, and very little slips her notice.
Recently, she and I walked with one of her own children on a very windy afternoon. We veiled our faces against the gale, and then suddenly I noticed she had stepped away from us, jogging across the parking lot.
When I looked up, I saw a gentleman in a wheelchair 30 yards away struggling to get into his car. She sped to his side and held his car door against the wind as he lifted himself into his car, waving his thanks as she trotted away.
While we waited for her to return to us, my little granddaughter proudly commented: “My mommy—she always sees when people need help.”
In that moment, I was proud of my daughter for her compassion and willingness to get involved. I was grateful for her example for my life, encouraging me to step up and do the same things myself.
But most importantly, I was grateful for the example she set for her own daughter. This six-year-old has seen this behavior often enough to recognize it and name it. She has a model for noticing people.
It occurs to me that living mindfully in a way that enables us to see people may be a value taught by words and by example in homes where parents value compassion. Parents can make it a point to raise their own Professional Noticers.
And even those of us who are only Novice Noticers can learn from watching them.