Paying Attention


“Pay attention.”

I recognized these words from math class to mountain highways.  I wasn’t aware what could happen when I did so in my everyday life.

Once a month “Mary Ann” lines up five crock pots  in her kitchen.  She will use them to prepare enough pulled-pork sandwiches to feed 15-40 hungry young people, drop-ins  at a nearby Attention Center.  (The Center is part of an independent network of Attention Homes* serving young people who are runaways or experiencing homelessness for any reason.) Administrators have let Mary Ann know that her pulled-pork sandwiches are a favorite menu item.

What it takes

 While the meat and seasonings are slow cooking, she leaves for a run to the local grocery store.  There she purchases bags of apples or oranges for snacks and  enough fresh produce to take home, wash, chop and toss for the meal’s (large!) salads.


By mid-afternoon Mary Ann is ready to load up the back seat of her car for a 20-minute drive where she will drop off the fruits of her labor.   But not before she fills an additional grocery bag with varying purchased or homemade desserts, including at least one that is gluten-free.

It’s been a long day. The time and energy required to prepare a Dinner-for-20 (or more) has left her feeling “pretty exhausted” as she climbs behind the wheel.  Would she like help?  No, this is her thing.  She enjoys both the meal prep and the assurance that what she’s doing is making a difference.

This volunteer cook is not a fix-it glutton. A wife, mother and grandmother, along with being an accomplished author, she knows her limits. She can reasonably donate one day a month to provide a mouth-watering meal for a population that is often ignored.  Other volunteers or staff will keep food on the table the rest of the month.

Attention Inspiration 

Mary Ann’s story inspired me.   Given that the word “attention” is key to what is happening at the Center where she volunteers, I asked myself what I could be paying attention to in my life.  Is there a need I have the interest and ability to meet? I know that cooking is not my thing.

I learned, by taking the time to read my church bulletin, that there is a monthly gathering of women who knit shawls for those in need of warmth or comfort.


I joined the group.  It’s a win/win for me.  I am motivated to do handwork, something that’s been missing from my life for way too long; and the recipient of the shawl I knit will be aware that someone cares.

Is there something going on in your corner of the world with the ingredients for a win/win situation? 

*More information can be found at

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