See and be Seen

When he walked into the routine procedure room I didn’t expect his first words to be, “What do you do?” In fact, this aloof question – asked without even looking at me – caught me so off guard that I failed to respond for more than a comfortable minute. When I finally did speak, all I could do was answer with a somewhat sarcastic, “What do I do?” Then before I could offer any other type of response, I fell victim to the anesthesia beginning to flow through my veins. Later in the recovery room, I was treated with overwhelming kindness by the nurses – they saw me with one even bringing me a heating pad for my aching back. As for the doctor, unfortunately he did not see me. I may never know why but the interaction had left me feeling empty and I had vowed not to let anyone feel that way after being with me.

There are moments in life when we experience the unexpected. The other morning, a lovely woman in our new condo complex greeted me by name (I think I met her maybe once before) and reminded me that she lived on the 3rd floor should I need anything. This friendly greeting changed my whole morning which had started out a bit rough due to a difficult pain night. It took just ONE kindly neighbor to change my bad mood. She saw me…looked me in the eye and called me by name. It was a difference maker moment.

Recently, I attended Mass at a local prison and had another one of those unexpected moments. It was a day where I was filled with worry over my son’s health – he had contracted COVID as a college freshman and was really run down from the virus due to his asthma. Before Mass began, one of the incarcerated women greeted me with a smile and complemented my nail polish color. (It was a new color that one of my daughter’s had picked out for me.) We then got into an interesting conversation and she shared moving stories about her own baby son. I was so touched by her kindness – in the midst of her own pain and present life suffering- that it made me turn away from my own concerns and offer my prayers for her quick release and reunion with her son. In this case, I think we had seen each other. We were simply two moms worried about ours sons, sharing comfort in our mutual love for them.

Being seen is a gift, but seeing others can be an even greater gift we give to ourselves. My husband and I attended Sunday Mass at another parish this week so we could watch our niece play college field hockey. Since it was not our parish, we didn’t know what to expect – we seem to have stumbled into the children’s Mass. We sat behind a young couple – barely 30’s – who had a small boy and infant baby girl. I watched them tag team with the crying baby without using words. One would get up and go out with her while the other stayed with their son and prayed. They did this seamlessly and without frustration. Toward the end of Mass I felt a prompting to compliment their faith and willingness to attend Mass despite the age of their children but thought better of it, “Mind your own business.” I said to myself. Then without even knowing what I was doing it, my hand tapped the Dad on the back and I said, “You and your wife are doing a great job. Our youngest just left for college and it is beautiful to see young families at Mass.” He thanked me and apologized for the chaos and crying baby to which I said, “None of us mind, we are just glad you are here, that is what matters most.” He seemed to sigh heavily and utter a final “thank you.” He was seen, and it felt good!

September is the anniversary of my much loved Mom going home to God. After 6 years, it has not gotten easier to live without her. But my comfort is trying to live like her. Mom always saw people! We chose a quote from St. Mother Teresa for the back side of her grave which beautifully sums up her life, “Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.” Mom’s example has propelled me forward each day to try and live in love and truly see people in their joys and sufferings.

It takes effort to really see people – we need to look up, get off our phones, and gaze into the eyes of our family, neighbors and friends. Sometimes it doesn’t happen – like in the case of the doctor at my procedure. In situations like this we should still respond in love because we don’t know what that person is going through. We are all called to respond and act in a way that makes others lives better, as Mother Teresa said. When we do, the world shines just a bit brighter as I experienced through the kindness of strangers this past week.

6 thoughts on “See and be Seen”

  1. Hi Jen – Hope you are well.
    I loved this post…..
    To see and be seen,
    To hear and be heard.
    Two great gifts.
    Two great opportunities to be touched in our lives and to touch the lives of others…
    And two great opportunities to feel God’s love and to pass it along.

    God Bless You, Jen!

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