Make a Difference: Pay Attention

Katie - Hudsonville, Michigan
Entered on January 24, 2009
Age Group: Under 18
  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

I’m sixteen years old, and I think I’ve seen a lot of people. Young and old, male and female, rich and poor. I used to just sneak a glance as I walked past them in the mall, never considering their feelings, or maybe their need for help. It seems everyone these days gets caught up in their own problems and forgets that there are other people around them.

A perfect example is standing in line at the checkout. Everyone is there for the same reason, but no one is going to turn to the person next to them and ask, “How is your day?” Oh no, that would be an invasion of privacy. Instead people just stare off into space or pretend to look through their cell phone, trying to avoid making eye contact with anyone.

I believe that paying attention to the world around you can make a difference in someone’s day.

After hours of searching the mall, I had finally found the perfect pair of black high heels to go with my new cocktail dress. I was exhausted and ready to go home. The cashier rang them up without any, “Hi, did you find everything okay?” She acted as if she didn’t even see me. “$24.65,” she said blankly. Rummaging through my wallet, I managed to find $24.60. It was one of those times when you try to act like nothing’s really happening, but inside you’re about to die of embarrassment. I frantically searched through my purse for a good thirty seconds trying to find one more nickel. One more nickel, come on, just one more nickel! Tired and disconcerted, I began to tell the cashier that I wouldn’t be buying the shoes after all. Suddenly the woman behind me tapped me on the shoulder. “I have an extra,” she said and handed me a precious silver coin. It was shocking to me that she had seen what was going on, and was ready to help right when I needed her. I smiled and said, “thank-you,” and with the last nickel and a brightened mood, I proceeded to buy my shoes.

I’ll never forget the way she looked: she was happy to help me, you could just tell. It didn’t matter that I was a stranger to her, or that it really wasn’t her problem that I was short five cents. Now I wonder if it had been me if I would have helped her, instead of reading old text messages on my cell phone, acting oblivious to what was happening right in front of me.

Paying attention can mean being there for someone when no one else will. It shows others that you care, and that you’re not too wrapped up in yourself to notice them in their time of need. I believe it’s possible to make a difference in someone’s day simply by paying attention.