No Photos: Be and Do, A Both/And Week

The First Grandboy Overnighter. Ayden, 5, and Cadence, About-to-Turn 3. September, 2009.

The Incredible Sweetness of Being, Part Twelve
I put my camera away the last time we had grandsons under our roof. Not because the camera was broken. Not because I don’t adore pictures of our grandchildren. Not because I think I have enough photos of any of the grandkids. I’m a Lala, for pity’s sake. Of course I love fresh snapshots of the kids–“too many grandchild photos” is an oxymoron, I’m sure.

It wasn’t easy. There were moments, during that Vacation Bible School week, when they were behaving so unsufferably adorably that I thought my heart would burst if I didn’t preserve the moment for posterity.

I put the camera away to focus on them with my own eyes, not the camera’s lens. I put the camera away so nothing came between those twinkling eyes and dimples, or blinked-back tears, or small hands manipulating big slices of pizza. I put the camera away so I wouldn’t distract myself wondering if I’d gotten a good shot at the latest bit of young boy awesomeness. I put the camera away so they wouldn’t be left, someday, with a memory that included a big black apparatus ever-present between them and me.

With my own eyes, I saw amazing sights:
The two of them walking hand-in-hand, ahead of Rich and me as we left a restaurant. 

The two of them hunkered down on the floor, peaceably sharing the new box of Legos we’d bought for the living room toybox. 

The glow on Cadence’s face as he confided in me that Ayden was his “best cousin.” 

Ayden, helping his younger cousin secure his seat belt in the back seat of Papa Rich’s car. 

I could fill albums with pictures of their sweet faces. But during this week, I chose to be and do with them without regard for saving the memories in pixels. Instead I focused on saving them in my heart. 

The exercise was instructive. I conceive of being, often, as opposed to doing. I do stuff, then I sit around and “be” while I process what happened, or consider my next move.

Be. Do. Be. Do. Be. Do. It begins to sound like a Sinatra song. 

But during this week with the boys, forced to operate at a primary school pace, and privileged to share a primary school perspective, I saw something different. When I fully engage, I can be wholly being and wholly doing, simultaneously. 

The technique requires me to forego some cherished habits: Think ahead, Plan a contingency (or two). Make a list. Take photos.

After I finished work on Monday, I met Rich and the boys in the park. They’d been there an hour or so, playing. I brought pizza and cold drinks and we had a no-fuss pizza picnic, right there at a table beside the playground. I didn’t run around snapping pictures of the boys. I didn’t think about what we’d do next when we got home and whether they’d have time to play, or we’d have to herd them straight into the bathtub. Nope.

I quieted my mind and opened my heart. I listened while they told me about their first day at Vacation Bible School. We admired the acrobatic skills of a young girl doing cartwheels on the grass. We compared notes on our favorite pizza toppings.

I have no photos of the pizza picnic. Instead I have vivid memories, embossed right into the skin of my heart. 

16  But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. 17 For truly I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.
Matthew 13:16-17

My word for 2012 is “be.” You can find other posts in this series here.

Sharing today with Laura Boggess at The Wellspring for Playdates with God. Please stop by.