A man looked at me today. He shook my hand and waited until I met his eyes before he let go. I wonder what he saw. Did he see the lurking unhappiness? Did he see a woman who was trying for just a few hours to forget how difficult life is? That single connection, that moment suspended in time made me feel very vulnerable. The big question “Why?” haunts me. Why was it important to see me? Why did he look deeper?
I spend my days with people who are caught in their own maelstroms. Life is seldom dull these days. Everyone has their own trials from home repair wars to battles with children to struggling to fit in with the right crowd. I am not a reserved person. I will tell anyone who is willing to listen how difficult my life has recently become. Rather, I am trying very hard to not spill my sorry story. I am trying to listen instead of talk. Most people don’t really care in the long run anyway. Scandal, gossip, exciting events, these are the things that make up the majority of conversation. My life stresses haven’t changed. They cycle over and over with no sign of resolution. I have seen friends become frustrated with me because there is no change in my life despite their well-meaning opinions. So the question remains, why did he pause to recognize me?
How often do you truly see the person you are talking to? How often do you take the time to actually listen to what they are saying, to actually hear the pain and worry in their lives? I have to admit that I don’t often. I am usually rushing from one activity to another and don’t have time or simply don’t know what to say so instead I make a little quip and change the subject. I detest people who make me feel as though I am a victim in my own life and constantly need to try to solve my dilemmas. They are easily recognizable. They usually start the conversation with a consolatory click of their tongue and a “How’s it going” sigh. Most times I just need someone to listen to what I am saying. It feels really good to share with others. When I listen, am I genuinely hearing what they are telling me? Am I looking deeper and seeing the reasons behind the story?
As humans that tenuous thread between us is so important to our well-being. I watched my kids tonight at youth group building little webs of friendships. My oldest girl with her shy glances at the boys, my boy still not quite comfortable in the group but leaning against the wall acting cool and nodding casually to ones who passed, my youngest giddy at being with the older ones and sharing giggles with another friend lucky enough to be allowed out. They are creating little invisible strings flowing from person to person weaving and swaying, binding all together. Each time two pairs of eyes meet a stronger thread forms. Friendships are forged. The eyes really are the windows to our souls. That single moment of vulnerability when another looks, really looks, at us can cause an immediate retreat like I did but it could also be the beginning of a great friendship. When was the last time you looked into someone’s eyes?