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Posted on May 1, 2018

Intentional Attentiveness

Intentional Attentiveness

by Marlene Bylenga, SCSBC International Education Coordinator ◊

Just recently, I was chatting with someone regarding an encounter he had with a person from another country. The encounter was not positive and left him frustrated and angry because western social norms were not followed. After the conversation, I was reflecting on the incident and realized each of the parties were responsible for the misunderstanding. Each of them were not being mindful of how their actions affected the other person.

We live in a world that is increasingly culturally diverse, and we may often be in situations where differences and misunderstandings occur and reinforce some of the stereotypes we may have. This can occur in the workplace, marketplace and even in our schools.

Our Christian schools are reflecting this cultural diversity and deal with challenges regarding cultural differences and negative stereotypes. We need to be more mindful of how our behaviors and actions can lead to misunderstandings, and we need to be willing to take the time and listen to the perspectives of others.

David Smith talks about how we can learn from each other, break down barriers and grow in a deeper knowledge of what is means to be a Christian community. Smith says we need to practice intentional attentiveness; embracing a posture of humility, being willing to listen to each other and learn from each other. We must also allow our preconceived assumptions to be challenged and perhaps changed. Each culture has different expressions of the Christian faith and when we engage lovingly in conversation, we can become closer to each other and our faith can be enlarged.

The following quote from Jean Vanier says it beautifully.

I am always touched to see how Jesus links
unity and faith together:
“that they may all be one …
so that the world may believe”.
If Christians are united, this will help others to believe.
Disunity is an obstacle to faith
whether it be disunity between individuals,
between groups or between churches.
Disunity prevents people from believing in
the message of Jesus.
Our world is filled with divisions and disunity
And if we are not careful
they seep into the life of our communities.
Whenever we allow barriers to rise up that
isolate us FROM others then we can no longer connect.
Whenever we accept some people and reject others,
we create barriers.
We need to ask the Holy Spirit to help us
bring down these barriers,
otherwise we will remain closed up
in the logic of fear and of exclusion
and become agents of disunity within our own community.
Jesus thirsts for unity and calls us all to unity

My prayer is that our schools will be lights in our communities where Christian love and unity is demonstrated through our interactions with each other.


  1. Vanier, J. (2005). Befriending the Stranger. Toronto: Novalis.
  2. David Smith: Learning from the Stranger.

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