I attended a safety meeting at the fire department this week. The topic for the evening was: “situational awareness.” It was an excellent presentation regarding the importance of paying attention at a working scene. Situations firefighters are called to can present dangers that unfold fast. The next day I learned that situational awareness is a spiritual discipline as well.
I was enjoying my weekly lunch with my friend, who is well into his 80’s. It’s a highlight of every week. We eat in the same establishment and we ask “our” waitress which tables she assigned to that day. After she took our order, I noticed four people sitting in an adjacent booth. The table was comprised of a man about my age, a woman in her late 20’s, and a small child. And…there was an elderly lady with them too. I thought to myself: how nice for this family to take grandma out for a lunch outing. Thankfully, my situational awareness kicked in quickly.
The “elderly” lady I observed was a woman who is likely younger than me. She was wearing a scarf around her head. It appeared to me that she had lost her hair. I don’t know her story, but I can’t help but wonder if the aftermath of chemotherapy has taken its toll. My mind started racing from that point forward. Several things occurred to me.
I realized my capacity to practice situational awareness is seriously lacking. I need to be more observant of those around me. At first glance, I saw an elderly woman. I was quick to reach a conclusion, and of course it was wrong. In the future, I will pay closer attention. If I have a better grasp of what is really going on with a person, I might actually do a better job of serving their needs at the time.
Situational awareness is a spiritual discipline to practice this year. We are surrounded by people every single day that have a variety of needs and concerns. We can make a difference, if we pay attention. Let’s not jump to conclusions too quickly.