We had a lovely dog named Bella. No she was not a golden lab like the picture above. She was a border collie mix. We used to play a patience game with her. We would balance a dog cookie on top of her nose and tell her to wait. Only when we said ok would she lift her snout and grab the cookie and eat it as fast as she can. Oh sure sometimes she would cheat and eat it early. But most times she was quite patient.
When playing that game, Bella's attention was fixed on two things. One was the cookie on her nose. She would stare it a long time making sure no one else took it. Her attention was on something else though. She would also be paying attention to us looking for some non verbal clue that it was ok to eat her cookie. Her attention was fixed and until she could get her prize nothing else mattered. In fact I think if someone were squeaking Bella's favourite toy or a cat or squirrel walked by, Bella would not have noticed. The cookie was her only focus.
In a book written by former Mission and Service Fund Officer, Julie Kinkaid, we find out about the forces that seek to grab our attention in the world. She says that a five year old sees thousands of branding images every day. Now you may wonder how can a child be exposed to so much. But looking at just a few feet in a circle around me, I see that my computer monitor is an LG Flatron. The speakers for my computer are MLI. I have an iPhone XR. My Kleenex box has Royale stamped on it. My operating system on the computer here at work is Windows. My shirt is Tommy Hilfiger. My pants are Dockers. The gum is excel. The United Church crest adorns some of the books that I have. These are just a few of the branded things that are near me. I know there are many more- pens, pencils, my ruler, the safety masks, all have labels inside. Even in this 3 feet radius from me, I can see hundreds of labels.
If I was travelling down a highway, just think of the gas stations, restaurants, billboards, truck advertisements that I would see. If I am watching television think of the ads I see and the products that are placed in the show I am watching- Howard Wolowitz from Big Bang Theory drinks Yoohoo for instance. Magazines show celebrities wearing certain designers or having clothes branded after them. Is it any wonder that before the age of 3 a child can spot the different between a McDonald's and KFC.
Right now, in case you have been a complete hermit, it is US election time. Ads on the American channels are trying to convince you to vote for one candidate or another or in favour of this proposition or not. Certain issues seem to be dominating the headlines right now: COVID and racial strife comes to mind. But other issues are being forgotten- affordable health, affordable education, maintaining good roads and other infrastructure projects, dealing with the homeless, the addicted, affordable child care, just to name a few. The same thing happens in Canada and other countries as well. A couple of big issues take over the press while many of the less glamourous issues seem to be constantly put on the back burner. In almost every election, one or two issues will garner all of the headlines. Everything else gets little attention.
I was trained in group facilitation at several church meetings I have attended. At every one of these training events I was told not to let one or two members of the group dominate the conversation and to make sure that everyone is given the opportunity to share if they wish. I wish we would do that with the news. Yes there are a few big stories out there right now, but let's not forget the other issues which need to be addressed as well. Let's listen for those quieter voices, those secretly struggling, those softly offering hope and good news in the midst of the huge stories as well. By concentrating on one or two big issues of the day, we become like Bella who lost sight of the whole world around her, while fixating on that cookie. Blessings.