I love to people watch. Whether it’s at the mall, the zoo, the grocery store or any public place where we interact with humans, I am always observing those around me. It is fun to sit and watch the different way people interact socially. To watch moms and dads interact with their kids. To watch married couples together (my favorite is to see an elderly couple walking hand in hand at the local park. There is just something so endearing about love that has endured the test of time). To watch youth together is usually quite epic. My sister often catches me in the midst of said people watching and whispers, “Hey you’re staring again,” to try and jolt me out of my intense investigating process.
I am not sure when I started the love of people watching, it seems like it has always been a part of my story. Oh the things I have seen!!!!! I think some of it is my general inquisitiveness and some of it was when I was younger I had a deep curiosity to see how families functioned with a dad present and with a functioning married couple in the home.
After many years of watching married couples I remember contemplating why a husband would do something for their wife. I purely was clueless on the whole marriage dynamic. In my mind I was thinking, “She could have just done that herself.” I have since learned that although she could have done it herself it would have robbed her husband of the opportunity to express his love in the way he knew how. This concept was so foreign to me and still baffles me at times (in a good pondering sort of way) even to this day.
Not too long ago, as I was coming home from work I watched a young girl riding her bike starting to veer toward my car. She wasn’t in any danger as I saw her and took precautions, but what I heard next was horrifying. A mother who began to scream and yell profanity at her young daughter and tell her what an idiot she was and so stupid over and over again. The young girl road in silence with her head hung low the rest of the way home. My heart was so grieved for that young girl. I wanted to get out of my car and just hug her and tell her that she isn’t anything her mom was saying. That she is valued and loved. My heart was also so furious with the mom for saying such demeaning things! Believe me I wanted to give that woman a piece of my mind!
Then something struck me. I looked back at this mom and I was surprised by the compassion that began to rise in my heart for her. God began to show me the way He sees her, that she too is loved and valued I began to see that her heart had been hurt so deeply and she was carrying this hurt like a heavy burden. In a moment where I can assure you i was ready to criticize her through the lens that I viewed her in, I was awakened to love to see her how God viewed her.
There are so many other ways we pass judgments on people; what size they are, what style of clothes they wear, how they do their hair, the color of their skin their ethnicity, their background, their social status, if they eat sugar or carbs and the list could go on and on. We have a stereo type that plays in our mind of what we believe is “right,” “kosher,” or “acceptable.” We all too often fail to look past our shallow perceptions to really see a person for who they are as valued and loved.
I mean isn’t that how you want to be seen? Don’t you want people to view you as valued despite your outward appearance or the scars of life that you bear? In a world where we are so quick to make a passing judgement based on what we see in a brief moment, we lose sight of the great opportunity to see people through the pure lens of of Christ’s love.
I have gotten better at slowing down to reach for the lens of Love to view others as Christ does, but I admit I have more work to to do. That growth process may look different for everyone. One thing I try and remember to do is to ask myself why am I getting ready to pass a generalizing statement on someone. What was my motive or intent? Whether your estimation of that person is wrong or right it is our heart motive that needs to stay in check.
We all have a desire to be seen and to be known, to be loved for the person we are. We desire others to see the greatness in us and encourage us to move forward in growth towards our grandest potential. People want to be heard and know that their story matters, that they matter.
I want to share one more story in hopes it will encourage you that wearing the right “lens” really is so important. I was shopping at Trader Joe’s (my favorite grocery store ever!) and I hear a young kid making quite a fuss. I turn and see the kid inside a cart with his mother pushing him. Next to the cart were the shoes he had just thrown overboard and two more young kids in tow. The mom was also wearing a baby carrier with a small baby resting upon her chest. To say this mom had her hands full was an understatement. The kid was still making a fuss and you could see that the mother was trying to keep the other two kids corralled as close to her as possible. That’s when I heard the sounds of people muttering frustration that the kid was causing a scene in the store. People were beginning to give the glares and accusatory stares no mother wants to feel when they are shopping for their family. I knew she had overheard some of the comments and my heart sank. Then my need to always seek justice rose up in me. I had a choice to confront the rude shoppers making the comments and make them apologize (yes, I am that bold when it comes to making the underdog feel vindicated), or I could opt for another way. I opted for the way that I knew would bring the most life. I walked over to the cart picked up the shoes and began helping her put them back on her kid. I then looked over to the mom and simply said, “mam I want you to know you are one amazing mom. I don’t know many moms who could tackle bringing 4 kids into a store by themselves. You’re my hero. I also want to say sorry that you had to hear those rude comments.” As I finished what I felt to share, tears began to stream down her face. She looked back at me with this deep sadness in her eyes and said, “you have no idea how much I needed to hear those words. My husband passed away a few months ago and it has been so hard to do things all alone.” I could feel a lump at the back of my throat and it was inevitable, I started getting misty eyed. Here she was freshly grieving the loss of her soulmate, love of her life and father to her children and having to endure another form of pain from outsiders that did not know her story. I offered to help her shop but she said that she was almost done and was getting ready to check out. The look of relief and peace she had as I walked away was truly beautiful to witness.
I have never run into this person again, but I know that God placed me in that moment to learn to see beyond the external. To slow down and offer words of kindness and encouragement. To see outside of myself to view others with the vision of love.
I know that’s how Jesus did it, He saw with eyes of compassion and love. He saw the person first and never their sin. He spoke life into who He saw them as and called them into that new redemptive stance.
Oh that we would see with eyes of eternal love.
Oh that we would love at first glance.
Oh that we would be the eyes, ears and mouthpiece of heaven to all those around us.
• see, in love
• hear, in love
• speak, in love
•• be love ••
Until next time have a joy-filled day!!