Sunday morning, walking into church, I was greeted by a dapper older gentleman, his hand extended and his smile warm, welcoming, an open door begging me to enter and rejoice. His suit was phenomenal. In every detail and every part he was immaculate and sharp. I took his hand, he pulled me in for an embrace.
"Good morning," came his booming voice, so gentle yet so powerful, "How are you today?"
"I'm fantastic. It's good to see you."
"Good to be seen and not just viewed."
That moment happened a few weeks ago, and I have been unpacking that statement ever since. It's good to be seen and not just viewed. Consider that phrase from the perspective of a writer, a storyteller, for a moment. It is so succinct, so well packed, eight words holding within them ancient and primal truths of humanity, spoken in a moment of greeting at the door to my church service. Words have power, and these words swept over me like an ocean wave, a sudden surge of gentle power from the sea, overwhelming me for a moment with the promise of wisdom to be found. This phrase has been at the forefront of my mind for the past few weeks.
The wisdom kicked in at the picnic, a celebration for finishing my 100 Connections, a chance for them to meet one another, to see the amazing souls I was so fortunate to see. It wasn't the food, the beautiful day, reuniting with connections or the words spoken about me and the inspiration I had been to people that was my joy at this event. No, it was much simpler, much more impactful. My great joy on Saturday was to see.
This picture is from the event. (Thank you Jai Jones for the amazing work.) Obviously not all 100 made it, but take a moment to look at the picture. Do you see them? WIthin this group are some of the most amazing stories I have ever encountered, stories that could fill a library, could fill a thousand rainy days. They are an amazing collection of smiles and cries.
Who do you see? Is it the loving woman with a heart of gold, opening her home and pouring coffee, while the banana trees reach out to shade you? Do you see the young woman on a quest for her dream? The artist who will give everything to be truly great, to build a legacy? Maybe you see a pastor who shared a meal with someone who had walked from the path, and proved himself more kind for not pressing or passing judgement. You might see the insurance guy who loves his job and has the greatest breakfast spot in Charleston, a truly brilliant photographer who taught me there is no spoon or the woman who knows the magic of horses and their connection to our hearts.
Look at the picture long enough and you might hear whispers of their laughter, of their cries in the night, of their triumphs. You might see the most generous heart I have met in the body of a teenage boy, the pride of a woman who came to this country and built something amazing when no one else would. There is the woman who chooses her family and who she loves, who truly understands how that all works, and the young man who goes to work, gets yelled at and yet smiles and becomes a great friend when you just honestly get to know him. You might see a love story, a classic tale of two people who took the road less travelled by and found each other on it.
Look at the picture long enough and you might hear them whisper.
"Good to be seen and not just viewed."
Do you see them? Or have you just viewed them? Are they just a random collection of people and job titles, of habits and hobbies, assembled in front of a magnolia tree in some park? When we take the time to see people, to share our lives with them and in turn allow them to share their own, the magic is endless. The truth is that this picture and your perception of the people in it, whether you see them or view them, is entirely up to you. it is your choice to view or to see. Make no mistake, it is frightening to be seen, it means you are open, that you are showing your heart.
Though there is nothing better than to stand amongst so many people, so many vibrant and wonderful characters, knowing that they smile, laugh and see each other. If you are very lucky, while you are watching them, you may catch the look of one of them from the corner of your eye and realize, they see you too.
This past Sunday at church I saw the same dapper gentleman as I entered the doors for service. He wore a new suit and the same warm smile, dapper and immaculate as I remember him from before. His eyes lit up with recognition as I approached him, his hand extended in the same way once more.
"Good morning," that same voice of gentle breeze and firm stone, "it's good to see you."
"It's good to be seen and not just viewed."
Our hands meet and separate as we move in for a hug. An embrace is the greatest way to greet one another, something we make entirely too rare. We hold it for a moment, pull back and he takes my hand once more. His ice blue eyes focus in on mine, light up with the glint of a teacher whose student has finally gotten it, and his smile grows just a bit more than I thought possible.
"Yes it is, sir. Yes it is."