Friday, December 20, 2002

A plea for the New Year - pay attention
By Paul Willcocks
VICTORIA - I figure that I've directed some 70,000 words your way this year, spent more than 100 working days figuring out what I need to tell you.
It's a considerable privilege, and a good job, and I thank you all for reading.
Today I want more. Call it a proposal for a New Year's resolution.
Resolve, swear, that today, and every day this year, you will pay attention.
Not just when it's important, when your partner is angry, or the boss is warning you, or things have spun out of control..
But now, right now. Who is in the room, or the house, with you? Pay attention - what are they thinking? Are they worried, sad, delighted? What's the one thing you could say or do that would bring them peace or joy? What's the one thing you could say or do that would bring you peace or joy?
Pay attention, to your lover or friend or child's eyes when they speak to you, or don't speak to you. Pay attention to the way your eyes look in the mirror. What do those eyes say? Are they happy, or sad, or lost?
Pay attention to the way your child leans into you, when you read a story that will stop much too soon. Pay attention to the way you parents look, when they wonder how your story will end, and realize that they will never know.
Pay attention to the small yellow light from a candle warming your living room and the cold, bright light from a handful of stars in the night sky. Pay attention to what you have, and what you long for. Pay attention to the sound of rain on the roof, to the wind in the trees, to the music your daughter plays behind the closed door to her room.
Pay attention.
This isn't just about you, and the people around you. It's about the world.
My job is inherently interesting. I get to talk to a wide variety of people, and read everything from government reports to company financial statements and write about what they mean to you.
But it only makes sense, it only serves any real purpose, because I start with a fundamental belief in the common sense and decency of people. All those 70,000 words are based on the idea that people want a better community and a better world, and that given enough information they will figure out what needs to be done to make that happen, and act.
And if we do want a better world the first huge step is to pay attention to the one we live in now.
After all, if we were paying attention to the people addicted to cocaine or heroin in our community, would we really be content to watch them die in alleys, or see their lives waste away each day? Would we still allow nervous politicians to deny them a place to inject drugs safely? Anyone who thinks about it for a moment knows it's not in their interest or ours to have addicts injecting drugs in alleys or parking lots. But we're just not paying attention.
If we were paying attention, would we condemn thousands of children to a terrible start in life, simply because they are born to parents without the ability to provide a home that can give hope? Or would we find a way to ensure that every little child entered kindergarten well-fed and with an equal chance to make her way in this world?
So today, and the next day and the day after that, open your eyes.
Making this world better is within our individual grasps. We are fundamentally decent. When we finally see the problems of those around us, we will act.
This year, simply pay attention.
Paul Willcocks can be reached at

No comments: