Year of Mercy

Put Down That Smartphone, for Mercy’s Sake!

Taking the time to be present for others seems like a small thing to you, but not to those you love

25) Put down the phone and really listen to someone else. With eye contact. — “56 Ways to be Merciful in the Year of Mercy”

I spent Friday evening with five of my children, while my husband took the other four on a trip to visit relatives for a special occasion.

Those who stayed behind did so because of obligations during the weekend: a party, a baseball game, a track meet to support the team, an exam to prepare.

But that Friday, none of us had any engagements and … we didn’t do anything.

We watched a movie. We ate. We talked. We read books. The 7-year-old spent 15 long minutes opening a musical holiday card over and over again, delighting each time the little Valentine’s Day dog barked his jingle.

It was a long, spooled-out-like-honey period of time — an odd Friday night. We didn’t have anything to do. We merely had each other. It was useless time. And oh so restorative.

Leisure time isn’t easy for me. A bad habit born of 22 years of trying to justify my role as a stay-at-home mom causes me to mimic the sins of Martha, rather than the virtues of Mary. I tend to measure my days by how much I crossed off the to do list. Yes, the to do list must get done, but I need to learn how to be still. That Friday was a bit of practicing this art.

With nothing to do, we listened to each other, made eye contact, left the phones unchecked on the counter. I sat at the end of the evening, stroking my son’s head as he held the cherished card and drifted off to sleep. He lives for this nothing time.

It made me think about all the nothing time we should be giving.

— Sitting vigil with a sick or dying friend, where one can do nothing but walk alongside the person suffering, and offering nothing but presence and prayer.

— Listening to the broken-hearted, not trying to fix the problem or plot revenge on the one who inflicted the wounds.

— Showing up to cheer on your teammates, even when you are not running.

All of these “nothings” matter. They matter more than anything else.

We always long for someone to give time, because time reveals the depth of feeling in a way no other gift can.

Doing nothing with those you love — because with those you love, you can spend hours, doing nothing — is time well spent.

It pulls down a taste of Heaven.