Friday, March 28, 2014

Respite…turn off to turn on

I returned from a much needs vacation with my husband last night. We stayed at a lovely resort in Mexico. Over the last 25 years when Brian and I vacation without kids, it’s usually full of lots of activity with a go go mentality.  This last year seemed to be so full of daily go go that I felt it would be best for us to go and sit…turn off everything…phone, computer, demands of any kind.  So this is what we did.  
"Italian Coast" by Jimmy Reagan - the Caribbean in
Mexico looks just like the water in this painting. 

While in Mexico, I noticed many things….families and couples enjoying the sun and beaches…..couples, kids and parents next to each other on their iPads…ear buds in….texting someone other than the person they were with.  There is an iPhone commercial that illustrates this situation and it has bothered me for sometime.  I saw it in action in Mexico.

Brian and I wanted to be in the moment….with each other….so we turned off electronics.   My kids often tell me these days that I am distracted not hearing what they are saying…not paying attention….distracted by communications.  I understand…..and it makes me sad.  All the gadgets in our lives…they make things more convenient….but, what impact do they have on our relationships with each other? We are gathering every piece of information from every source…except what is right next to us….in front of us….with us in the moment.
" Man with Pipe" by Jimmy Reagan
This is Jimmy's portrait of Matisse. I was finishing a
fascinating book on Matisse while in Mexico

Hotel employees greeted us with smiles and hellos….how can we help…..what are you interested in…..seemingly interested in me/us and in the moment that they were helping to create.  Mexican hotel workers quickly attending to our every need always knowing my name and looking me in the eye….they were listening and not distracted….they were paying attention….this was so appealing.  Now, you might say…hotel workers are doing their job….but, I think it is more than that….they appreciate that we chose to visit their hotel and they were grateful for us….really grateful and genuinely interested in us. I was particularly taken by their efforts to make eye contact given how absent it seemed to be with hotel guests.

Brian and I got to know the staff at the restaurant where we ate breakfast each morning chatting with the staff and learning about their lives in Cancun.  On our last morning, Rodger, the cafĂ© manager, kindly asked if we enjoyed our stay.  We responded with profuse thanks and approval.  He mentioned that each morning before service he met with his staff and shared with them comments he’d received both good and bad.  “I use this as motivation and I will share your nice comments with our staff.” Brian and I felt that the staff  (who made our stay so lovely and who likely didn’t earn very much money) was happy for their job and did their best for us.  Brian and I both thought it was important to write to note to Rodger and his staff. 

I carry Jimmy’s note cards with me when I travel. Brian and I were so touched by Rodger that we decided to give him some of Jimmy’s cards and we wrote a note to his staff.  Brian went to check out of the hotel and while I delivered  the note and cards to Rodger.  Rodger was clearly touched by the jesture.  He profusely thanked me....we hugged and said goodbye. While waiting for Brian to complete checkout…Rodger came running up the stairs….Mrs. and Mr. Reagan I need to show you something.  He had his phone in his hand…..”your cards mean so much to me… I want to show you my youngest son, he has Downs….he’s such a smart and good boy.”  Brian and I proudly watched a video of Rodger’s beautiful young son.  Jimmy’s cards gave him hope and we shared a commonality.  Our last engagement with Rodger will have a lasting impact on Brian and me.
"Girl from France" by Jimmy Reagan
Eye contact is a recurrent theme for Jimmy and
is illusive for many with autism.  His painting subjects make direct eye
contact drawing the viewer into the work.

I like being turned off….it refreshed my spirit and helped me better recognize all the good in my life. I will make a concerted effort to "turn off" so that I better see what is in front of me and beside me.