ROSE NOLEN: Prioritize your life based on the elements that truly matter

Tuesday, August 14, 2012 | 5:01 p.m. CDT

Sometimes, teachers get desperate.

They care about their students and so they often go to great lengths to help them out. I was scanning a newspaper's website when I came across a message that was so compelling I wanted to answer it myself. The writer was obviously hoping some parent would read the note and get the message. This writer was appealing to some anonymous parents to observe that their child lacked organizational skills and was unable to focus. They were advising the parents to seek help.

I felt sorry for the kid in question and I hoped the parents got the message. The following week the writer tried again. It was the same message. This time I came to my senses and decided that it was a nice try. Next time, the letter writer might try having the parents arrested, I thought. At least that might get their attention.

There really are too many things that get in the way of people paying attention to each other and their children. Sometimes, it's big things, such as paying the mortgage or hearing bad news at the doctor's office. Other times, it's little, trifling, nothing things, such as worrying about being late to the football game. But whatever the case, there are times when we need to turn off the other stuff, take a few minutes, sit down, look each other in the eye and talk.

When something wakes us up and tells us that something is wrong, too many times we simply say that life gets in the way. When the truth really is, we allowed life to get in the way. When I was growing up, we moved from our two-story home in a small town to a tiny apartment in the city. We didn't have much room and so we had to leave a lot of our furniture behind. As it turned out, we didn't miss a thing. It was a long time before we figured out that we had too much stuff we didn't need to begin with, so we were better off without it.

If there had been room in our tiny apartment we would have piled the extra stuff in. The same thing is true of our lives. Sometimes, we pile too much stuff in. Some of it is not important and could be left out. For example, there are friends who are really not friends. There are friends who only think about you when they have an extra ticket to a concert or they have an extra chair at the table for their dinner party. Then there are friends who for no reason at all send you a card in the middle of the week to let you know they are thinking of you. Did you really want to go to a concert or fill an empty chair?

We get to decide who and what is important in our lives. We get to move stuff around in our schedules. We get to say yes or no. How many times do we put off people who we really need to spend time with for some frivolous reason, such as going to a Tupperware party? We are certainly clever enough to realize the times when we need to be our own best friend, but do we always acknowledge those times when we need to be our own parent?

We tend to take people for granted in our personal lives. We assume they will always be there. And even worse, we assume that if they needed something they would tell us. Let's face it, some people are not good at that. Some people would rather suffer in silence than to ask you to give them a ride to the shopping mall even though you're going right past it.

We need to remind ourselves to pay attention. When we were kids, somebody always told us to look both ways before we crossed the street.

Somehow, we never forgot that.

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or emailing her at Questions? Contact Opinion editor Elizabeth Conner.

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