Saturday, February 28, 2015

Book review, The Noticer

If you’re looking for a small dose of timeless wisdom loosely fashioned into a story, you might enjoy The Noticer by Andy Andrews. In this book, a mysterious white-haired man named simply Jones appears to folks in a small town when they face crises, helps them gain perspective on their problems, then disappears. I like that Andrews weaves applications of wisdom into people’s lives in real-life situations, like employer-employee relations, dehumanization of workers, marital disconnects and despair, young-adult hopelessness and confusion. Almost any reader would recognize similar dilemmas in his or her world. And I like that Andrews puts himself into some of the book’s stories as one of Jones’ “helpees.”

I like that Jones calls himself a noticer. Early in the first story, he says, “I am a noticer … It is my gift. While others may be able to sing well or run fast, I notice things that other people overlook … about situations and people that produce perspective. That’s what most folks lack—perspective—a broader view. So I give them that broader view … and it allows them to regroup, take a breath, and begin their lives again.”

In some cases, the rejuvenating perspective comes from illuminating the universality of obstacles. In other cases, Jones shares the benefits of compassion and a long view of integrity. Sometimes he asks, What if you did this instead of that? Jones exemplifies Marcel Proust’s observation: The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.

To enjoy The Noticer, please just roll with the hokey mysteries of Jones. No one knows who he is, where he’s from, what’s in the brown suitcase he always carries, or how he knows to show up at critical junctures in townspeople’s lives. Even if you believe in angels, Jones is a contrived character. I had to just accept Jones as a device Andrews uses to make his points. I also had to overlook parts that felt preachy. My not getting attached to any character in any story, as I might in a novel, made for a little boredom, too.

If you hang in to the end, however, you will be rewarded with a Reader’s Guide to help you apply new perspectives to your own life. Questions on each chapter and questions for personal reflection are insightful. Even if you humbly reflect and act on only a few of these questions, you will be a changed person.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Good job!

The white-uniformed Navy honor guard played “Taps” alongside Dad’s newly dug grave. Then a Navy officer bowed to each person in our family, one by one, to express his sadness for our loss. When this touching ceremony was over and we were still dabbing tears, my sister chirped to the officer, “If Dad were here, he would tell you, ‘Good job!’” Oh so true. Dad was the consummate encourager.

Recently, our bible study facilitator finished leading us through a pivotal agenda regarding the group’s future. He had elicited our honesty, opinions, and ideas so efficiently, I was profoundly impressed. And surprised to hear a hearty “Good job!” pop out of my mouth. Dad! Oh, Dad. Thank you for your example all my life.

I’ve wondered what of my father’s admirable qualities might be hiding in me. Math whiz—nope, never that. Linguistic acrobat—lover of words, yes, punster, no. Tennis phenom—once upon a time, but arthritic knees have nixed that inherited hobby. So how do I follow in my father’s footsteps? What am I left with? I have his explosive sneeze? Oh, puleeze, tell me there’s more. Well, maybe I can say “Good job!” more often. The other day, my husband said, “Good job” to our airplane pilot as we exited the plane. The man beamed. Yep. Encouragement makes a difference.