'Help' is a prayer that is always answered.
- Anne Lamott
I went out to see a friend’s photography exhibit the other night, and when I came home I found all the clean laundry in piles in the living room, unfolded. Laundry is one of the first chores my kids learned to do; they’ve been expected to fold their own clothes since they were preschoolers.
I looked around the living room, amazed and dismayed that no one had noticed what needed to be done. Or if they’d noticed, they’d never converted that observation into action.
Most of the family was in bed already, so I went to bed, too. As I slipped under the covers I thought, Lord, help me out here. I want my kids to be responsible human beings, and I need to know how to talk to them about this without nagging.
As I drifted off to sleep I thought about the importance of noticing, of seeing problems big and small. Often we’re so fixated on what’s important to us that we don’t see the other things that matter too. We focus in on what we want instead of on what we need to do... or what God wants us to do. If we develop the habit of assuming someone else will fold the laundry, or someone else will write that letter to the city council, or someone else will clean up the trash by the lake, we’re far more likely to walk past the Lazarus who’s suffering at our gate without noticing him.
The next morning as my kids got ready for school, I talked to them gently about the kind of people I want them to become: people who see what needs to be done, and who assume that because they can see a problem, they are part of the solution. We can fall into the habit of being inattentive or we can work to develop the habit of being alert to where we can be helpful. It’s pretty easy to see which of those options God wants us to choose.
Julia Attaway is a freelance writer, homeschooler and mother of five. She is the editor of Daily Guideposts: Your First Year of Motherhood, a book of devotions for first-time moms. She lives in New York.