A Day for Attention

Yesterday we feasted, we spent time with family, and now we rest.  If we practice the traditional Friday fast of Christians, then we rest our bodies (if you haven’t started this practice today is an excellent day to start).  But it is also a time to relax into the Thanksgivings that we celebrated yesterday which means that this is also a day not to jump immediately into the season of wants and desires.  Gift giving is good and like anyone I  like receiving and giving gifts, but in our excess we have almost made gifts meaningless.  We render gifts meaningless when they come out of our debts; we render gifts meaningless when buying them comes at the expense of others.  Good gifts come not from getting the best deal on the latest wizbang digital must-have of the year, but through paying attention.  We must pay attention to the subtle delights of the person to whom we are giving the gift and then try to meet that delight.  This comes from a well chosen book or a gift made with care and time and attention put into it.

Some Christians have taken to committing to spend no more than a $100 this season.  I think that is a good idea, not because it will save money, but because it will force attention–limits help us do that.  Rest helps us pay attention too–it opens up the space for us to see.  So today, rather than join the mad dash of Black Friday (a color with so many meanings) we should rest and watch.  Advent is coming, signs are appearing, there is much to pay attention to.

About Ragan Sutterfield

Ragan Sutterfield is a writer and Episcopal seminarian sojourning from his native Arkansas in Alexandria, Virginia. He is the author of Cultivating Reality: How the Soil Might Save Us, Farming as a Spiritual Discipline and a contributor to the book Sacred Acts: How churches are working to protect the Earth’s climate. Ragan’s articles and essays have appeared in a variety of magazines including Triathlete, The Oxford American, and Books & Culture. He works to live the good life with his wife Emily and daughter Lillian.