“I wonder how many people I’ve looked at all my life and never seen.”
John Steinbeck, The Winter of Discontent
Yesterday, I dropped my phone. I dropped the napkins, the forks, and the spoons. I dropped almost everything I carried, except the three glasses of water precariously balanced in my hands. I saved those.
Two casual diners rescued me. The man picked up the phone and delivered it safely to my table; his female companion handed over the tableware. They were lightning fast, as if on cue.
A minor incident? True. On all fronts except one.
I was polite and thanked them, of course. But what I didn’t do was see them. Like Steinbeck, I looked, but didn’t see. You might shrug and ask, “What’s the big deal? What’s the difference?”
The difference turned out to be significant. Or at least it was for me. It served as a gentle reminder to open my eyes and my heart and truly see who is there.
The Thai restaurant where my friends and I met for lunch is self-serve, so I passed by this table a few more times, gathering fresh forks and spoons, clean napkins, and later ordering dessert. Again, I smiled easily at the couple as they raised their faces up to me. Again…I nodded and looked, but didn’t see.
You might still be saying, “Okay, no big deal. Move on!” And, you’re right.
I did move on. We finished our lunch, topped it off with Ginger Lemongrass Coconut Ice Cream and went our separate ways. I drove into a busy shopping center on a mission to find a classic black skirt.
Just as I put the car into “park,” I received a text message from a dear friend in Portland, OR, over two thousand miles away. The message read:
“Are you at Thai Fresh?”
“Uh, just left.…?” How did she know I had just left the restaurant? She has an infant and recently went back to work, so I knew she wasn’t in Texas.
“My friend, J—, just texted me. He saw you there.”
“LOL! Tell him ‘thank you’ for picking up my phone.”
I remember J— and he has even been to my home. We exchanged a few more text messages before signing off. Then I had a good hearty laugh at myself. While browsing the crowded racks for the perfect skirt (no luck), I thought about it a little more.
I had been in a hurry. I had been clumsy in body as well as in spirit. I had ignored a familiar kindness as J— set my phone on our table. I had missed something important…..I had missed him.
Today, I smile and am grateful for my clumsiness, for the ripple effect of this small gesture—the reminder that I truly do want to see people. Looking at them is not enough; it’s that true connection, the good eye contact, that soulful moment when you know you have seen who they are–that is what I want.
May you live with an open heart and truly see,
Photo by Ryan McGuire, www.gratisography.com