Sunday, September 13, 2020

Being seen

Originally published in The Miami News-Record, January 2020

This week the program I work for brought Leon Logothetis, aka The Kindness Guy from the Netflix series The Kindness Diaries, to campus for two sessions. The premise of his show is that he travels the world with no money, food, or possessions and does it all while relying on the kindest of strangers. It’s nothing if not inspiring. 

The main premise of his speech was obviously kindness, but more than that he stressed how showing someone kindness - whether completely off the cuff or pre-planned - shows that person that you see them. Not just with your eyes, but with your heart, your soul, your very being. How many times have you felt invisible? Unseen? Like you are nothing and mean nothing? If you haven’t ever felt those feelings I’d say you are in the minority. 

Humans need love. Humans need interactions - yes, even us introverts. We’re not monsters, just….awkward and like to hide from like, everyone we think might want to talk to us about the weather or sports. But even the most introverted of introverts still needs human interaction. And being seen is so crucial for a person’s happiness and well-being. I’m not saying go seek validation because that’s not the same as being seen. The homeless guy at the intersection holding the cardboard sign? Sure, you see him, but do you see him? Do you smile and maybe give a weird non-committal fingertip wave and then stare intently at the stoplight internally chanting “Turn green, turn green, turn green”? Or do you see him and think about him as a human being? How cold or hot it is that day? How appropriate or inappropriate his clothing is for the weather? Is he hungry? Is he lonely? What’s his name? Does he have family that wonders where he is and how he’s doing?

Sure, we can’t help every homeless person, every struggling momma in Walmart counting change to buy formula, every student crying at her computer because her parents are divorcing and math is hard and life is too much, but if we all help a few just think of the impact that would have - on our campus, our workplace, our country, our world — on ourselves. Not selfishly, but in a completely self-aware way. In a way that will make us truly see those around us and make us want to do more and help more and be more. 

In his speech Leon said, “Heroism is built on a foundation of service and love.” One of the main tenets of Crowder College is servant leadership. When I first started working there I noticed how everyone helps every else, and not just staff and faculty helping students, but everyone helps each other. Effortlessly and without forethought - everyone just does. I had been there a few weeks before I actually heard the words “servant leadership” and I was so impressed by it, that an institution would make that such an important part of who they are. 

I was helping take tickets at the door yesterday before the presentation. I have been kind of in a funk lately - it’s winter and the semester just started and it’s just that time of year for funks. I was standing behind the table when a co-worker came up and said, “I was thinking about something last night. If you had gotten rich and famous rather than the Pioneer Woman, you wouldn’t be here. And you wouldn’t know us……and we wouldn’t have gotten to know you.” 

She saw me. 

I teared up immediately. She said, “Now, don’t go crying! We’re not those kind of women!” and we both laughed and I said something about needing some emergency estrogen and she moved on in the line. But her words echoed with me all day. She had truly thought about how her life would be without me in it. It was a simple statement, a simple gesture, it took nothing of her time and money, but she said it to me regardless. 

She saw me. 

Open your eyes. Open your heart. Open your mind. Watch. Listen. Look. See people. Really see them. Change their world if you can. And in the process you’ll likely change yours. 

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