Be Aware

Jan 4, 2013

The New Year is here and it's time to carry out some resolutions. Delmarva Public Radio Essayist George Merrill writes the simplest may just being aware.


                                                                        By George Merrill

I never make New Year’s resolutions. I don’t because they have a guaranteed shelf life of only two weeks. However I do make one resolution over and over again: to simply be more aware.  Not easy but when I’m successful it takes me to a different place.

Say, I’m aware of something I’m feeling, how I am harboring anger, jealousy, sadness or resentment. Just observing the feelings, kindly, and with curiosity makes them seem less important and they soon go away.  I don’t think the feelings like me just watching them. They want me to do something, to act on them.

Sometimes I’m aware of something ordinary; the weather, the sunlight, a squirrel, a couple holding hands, an old man with a cane, or a child bound for school.  As I watch them they slowly transform the moment into something magical, almost transcendental. Soon those moments leave me, too, but they’ve transported me momentarily to a better place. I know there is wonder to see everywhere if only I stay aware.

Driving, recently, stopped at a light; I became aware of a woman standing by herself, near a shopping cart, at the corner of a busy intersection in Salisbury. There was no one else around.  The woman was ruggedly handsome, modestly dressed –- middle aged, and African American. She stood erect and proud with her head lifted high.  Facing the street, she read from a book that she held like a lector in church. My car was short of the corner and my window closed so I couldn’t hear. I opened the window and intermittently heard words like “righteous” and “be my people.” She read from a Bible but there was no one around to hear her, only the impersonal din of traffic going by.

I suspected she might be homeless. I admit that I sometimes avoid homeless people but this woman captured my imagination and I wanted to get closer to her to learn what she was about.  For whom was she reading, I wondered? For her own solace or was she hoping that someone would stop to take her message seriously? Was she standing at the by ways, proclaiming some divine vision to a violent world as prophets once did, shouting in the wilderness to make people aware of their toxic behavior.

I inched my car up but still was not able to hear her. Her commitment to her reading and the confident and dignified carriage with which she performed her task mesmerized me. Her eyes looked mostly upward, glancing infrequently at the Bible, as if, I thought, she was either speaking directly to God or that she knew he was listening carefully to her.  

What does one say to God on a busy street in Salisbury, or for that matter in Beirut or in Afghanistan or in Washington? And what might God then say in return? I’m hoping the conversation goes something like this: One says deliver us from our violence, and teach us to love and care for one another. The other says I’m working on it but I’m encountering some resistance.

Being aware also takes me to some hopeful places.