See Someone Today
For my 31st birthday, my mom, dad, brother, and nephews joined our crew of six at my house for an evening party. We ate my favorite food, pizza, the kids played in the backyard, and the adults sat around visiting and laughing in the living room. I had asked everyone to bring a memory instead of a gift, and everyone did. My 91 year old grandpa brought a small stack of pictures he had carefully selected, pictures containing me or other family members that would be present that evening. We passed them around with plates of cake and remembered old times. My mom brought along mementos of my childhood, awards and pictures, and a tiny, thumbnail-sized picture of newborn me taken the day of my birth in the hospital. I tried to keep it, but she wouldn’t et me. We discovered that our soon-to-be second-grader Abby looks just exactly like second-grade Ashley.
This is what I treasure most in life, these times with loved ones. We see one another, listen, talk, laugh and remember. This is what I love and value. I felt seen and loved that day.
Yet, when my life gets too full of stuff and my schedule gets too full of busyness, these are the first things to go. Life becomes survival. People get taken care of, but not necessarily seen.
And I am guilty. I am guilty on so many levels. I am guilty of letting my life become too busy, too cluttered, too stressful to send birthday cards on time, to make phone calls to my grieving grandfather, to sit down and listen to someone without glancing at my watch or phone. I am guilty of letting my heart get so cluttered with anger, bitterness, and anxiety that I don’t have room for anyone else’s grief or joy or needs. I am guilty of saying I will pray and forgetting. I am guilty of picking up my phone to idly browse the internet but not making a phone call I need to make. These actions do not align with my values and I grieve them.
But I am chasing hard after change right now. This is why I am so passionate about minimalism. I am clearing out room to practice what I value most. I’m chasing my own emotional health so I can love others more fully. I’m practicing saying “no” to expectations from others that don’t fit so that I have room to say “yes” to the things God is calling me to do.
I believe the people in my life are put there by God, and I want to see them. Really see them.
I walked into Wal-Mart last week with Abby, Isaac, and Susanna in tow, and the greeter, an elderly man, cradled his arm in a sling. I stopped and asked him what happened. He told me that a woman hit him with her car in the parking lot. I was astonished.
Hit you with a car? I exclaimed.
Yes, he said, I was wearing my [neon] vest and everything. I was yelling at her to stop, but she didn’t stop.
So, she just didn’t see you? I asked him.
He shrugged. The pain of the incident, physical and emotional, was evident on his face.
That’s what she said.
I could tell he was skeptical.
Whatever happened that day, this was clear: He didn’t feel seen.
The line of people-traffic was struggling to get around us (to get into Wal-Mart! And buy more stuff!), but I ignored it. I looked at him and he looked at me, and we locked eyes.
I am so sorry that happened to you. It must have been really scary. He nodded silently; he seemed taken aback and wordless. Later, we connected again as I was leaving the store with my cart full of groceries and my nerves full of kids. He made sure Isaac didn’t run out into that same crazy parking lot where he was injured.
I hate that he wasn’t seen that day by the woman in the car. I am sure she didn’t mean to hit him, probably would never have hit him on purpose.
But sometimes we cruise through our lives at such a breakneck pace that we do hurt people, even when we don’t mean to. Sometimes we hurt them most just by not seeing them in their pain, and acknowledging it. Saying, “Yeah, that does hurt. I am so sorry.” Sometimes we are a 31 year old mom with four kids who is so busy chasing them she feels like she doesn’t have time to stop and look someone in the eye.
She doesn’t have time not to. She’s learning that, slowly.
See someone today. It may be the sweetest grace you could give.
Acknowledge their joy/hurt/sorrow/anger.
Ask for someone to see you, too, if you need that. They may have no idea you feel invisible.
If we do nothing else in life, no great accomplishments, I believe we can live a truly great life, just by seeing the people around us.
See someone today. Be seen. Be loved.
If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 1 Corinthians 13:13