|Years ago, I was typing on my computer when my kids entered the room. I didn’t pause or look up and kept typing (after all, you’ve got to keep that train of thought going). My kids laughed and said, “How funny, mom! You’re typing about being more social, but you’re ignoring us while you’re on your computer!”
Now, I didn’t start writing on papyrus leaves or notepads after that illuminating incident with my kids. But I did start practicing something I call “the pivot.”
This may sound elementary, but how many times have you ignored a spouse, child or friend while you continued texting, answering emails or scrolling through social media? It’s easy for us to become so entranced with our phones and tablets that we don’t notice the people around us. We miss opportunities to minister to our family members and even strangers when our eyes are locked downward.
Here’s how you can practice the pivot — whether you’re texting on your phone or watching TV:
Step 1: When you sense someone approaching you, get ready to perform the pivot.
Step 2: Turn your head away from the screen and toward the incoming human being.
Step 3: Smile and look the person in the eyes. Practice body language which states, “I am listening.”
It’s a good thing the Apostles Peter and John weren’t watching Netflix on their tablets back in the book of Acts. Our key verse introduces us to a man lame from birth, who sat every day to beg at the temple. Verses 3:3-5 say, “When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, ‘Look at us!’ So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.”
Peter and John didn’t ignore this beggar as most temple-goers did. On the contrary, different translations say they fastened their eyes (KJV), looked intently (NRSV), directed their gaze (ESV), or fixed their eyes (NKJV) at the man. This posture of intense eye contact linked with compassion and the power of God led to the man’s healing!
Peter and John pivoted their attention to help someone in need. In the same way, when we’re walking into church, the workplace or home, it’s a good idea to look up and around. Don’t give priority to your devices. Give priority to the people in your life, offering your full attention to your family members and even noticing if a stranger could use a kind smile.
Today when my kids walk into my home office, I now practice pivoting toward them — even if I have to stop typing mid-sentence. I swivel my chair away from my computer, look them in the eyes and answer whatever questions they have. They are much happier, and so am I. The pivot is my way of communicating to my kids, “You’re more valuable to me than a piece of hardware.”
Let’s never be too busy or consumed with our phones that we stop looking up and seeing. Our phones won’t care if we don’t maintain eye contact. But our loved ones will.
Dear Jesus, Peter and John looked and really saw the beggar in Acts chapter 3. Help me to really see the people in need around me — especially my family members and friends. Help me to pay attention in my relationships and to notice people more, and my phone less. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.