Eye to Eye
by Lori Heine
I don’t often carry cash. I don’t have very much money. And I’ve found that when I’ve got cash in my wallet, I spend it too freely. It means that I tend to travel light.
The only time this creates a problem is when I’d like to give a few dollars to someone who needs them more than I do. I’ll be walking down the sidewalk and come upon someone who asks for a little spare change. Or just someone who looks as if they could use it. Usually I’m unable to pull anything from my wallet but lint.
Coming up empty makes me feel self-conscious. I feel as if I’m letting others down. The temptation is to hurry by. And to look the other way.
Sometimes we need to be on the receiving end of the sort of treatment we give others. It’s the only way we find out how it feels.
LGBTQ Christians know what it’s like when people look the other way. It makes us feel as if we’re invisible. Not only do straight Christians tend to ignore us, but so do many in the LGBTQ community. It almost makes us feel as if we don’t exist.
Coming out of the supermarket, loaded down with groceries, I passed a raggedly-dressed young man sitting on a concrete bench. I was waiting for the friend who’d given me a ride, so I stationed myself near the exit to the store. I watched the reactions of the people who passed the raggedy young man. None of them so much as glanced his way.
He looked dejected. His gaze was empty and forlorn. I don’t even think he expected anyone to look at him. And experience had likely taught him that if anyone spoke to him, it would be to tell him to leave.
I decided to try an experiment. I kept looking at him until he looked at me. Then, instead of looking away, I smiled. We sat there for a while, eye to eye. He didn’t smile, but a light came into his eyes. He knew he wasn’t invisible.
I had no cash to give him. I’m not sure he even wanted money. He just wanted to be around people. And of course he needed a place to be.
It would be egotistical for me to claim that my smile was better than money. But it was something he didn’t ordinarily get. Looking at him--and really seeing him--was my way of telling him that he mattered. Even those who give him money probably don’t do that.
For those of us whose existence is frequently ignored, eye-to-eye contact can also be therapeutic. It can remind us that when a connection is made, it counts on both sides. Someone who matters looks at someone else who’s important enough to be seen. There’s something holy about that.
When Jesus healed, he did much more than merely speak words. He touched. And He looked--and really saw. It was a miracle every time it happened. And when those of us who follow Him meet others eye to eye, we have the potential to perform miracles, too.
© 2019 Lori Heine
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