I See You: Eyes of a Child

It was a Thursday afternoon and I was keeping my 16-month-old grandson, Parks. He’d just gotten up from his nap and I wanted to quickly check my mailbox. I let him walk on the sidewalk holding my hand, and then picked him up when we crossed through the parking lot to the mail station. He likes watching me put the key into the box and getting to hold a piece of mail as we return to my apartment. It was an overcast afternoon and showers were predicted.

Walking back up the street, with his twenty-three pounds becoming heavier, I stepped faster to make it to the sidewalk where I could put him down. We needed to get inside before the rain started.

A woman walked on the opposite side of the street– coming toward us. Parks waved to the woman. He was wearing his eye-catching orange Under Armour shirt and looking at her with his dark, round eyes that draw you in.

“How cute!” she said, and walked over to us with a big smile on her face. “He looks great in orange” and then added, “I can’t wear that color.”

She had on a gray hooded jacket and a floral dress underneath with soft blues and pinks–the blues bringing out her light eyes.

“I can’t either,” I responded. “We’re both fair-skinned–but not him.”

Parks and his older brother, Baker were like my sons; the older one fair, the younger one more olive-complected.

“How old is he?” she asked.

I answered her then told her about his new discoveries. Parks patiently stayed in my arms, looking at her without wiggling to get down or showing any impatience with our conversation.

“What’s his birthdate?” she asked. “I have this thing with remembering numbers.”

And I remembered her.

We’d met last winter at the fitness center– socially distanced on parallel Ellipticals–the only two people working out that Saturday afternoon. I’d discovered that her children had been students at the school where I worked as the school nurse the last fifteen years of my career. She talked freely about problems in her relationships with them, and with others. She’d chatted through most of our work out, sharing about her life, tearing up as she told her story of hurtful relationships, difficulties maintaining her career in healthcare, and siblings cheating her out of most of her inheritance. Into the conversation, she told me that later in life, she’d received a diagnosis of Autism– of being on the spectrum–as they called it.

Parks held his hand out again like he was going to wave at her.

She asked me my name. I told her we’d met months ago in the fitness center.

“Oh, I remember now. You were the nurse at my kids’ school,” she said. “They called many times for permission for you to give them Advil. They were school phobic and always trying to get out of class.”

My back was beginning to ache from holding Parks while standing on asphalt. I wanted to leave but she asked questions about the teachers who taught her children. Her face turned sad when she said her daughter hadn’t spoken to her in a long time. There were problems in her relationship with her son, too. It seemed she was mostly alone with few people that maintained contact with her– even though she’d grown up in the area and her extended family still lived close by.

She looked at Parks and smiled.

“It’s something meeting you today,” she said, looking from him to me. “I’ve just had some real coincidences lately with people showing up in my life.” She told me about a man who’d helped her by keeping her from getting in a car accident and then remarked about feeling the powerful presence of her parents–both deceased, but as if they were there, protecting her.

“And now, he waved at me and we’re having this conversation,” she said, looking back at Parks– who was still content in my arms.

Her eyes filled with tears and she said, “Thank You for seeing me.”

I deflected her thanks to Parks and how he’d gotten her attention in his orange shirt; I couldn’t take the credit. If it hadn’t been for him waving, I would have kept walking, eager to get home, wanting to avoid a long conversation.

Thank You for Seeing Me

How powerful that moment for her of being seen, of being acknowledged. She’d had a difficult life. No doubt her childhood, when Autism was not something we understood, was marked by being left out, being made fun of. Relationships had been a struggle and there were no interventions to help her understand and navigate them. She was fragile, like a bird that had flown into a window, stunned and quivering on the ground. Maybe being seen was like a warm hand, tenderly scooping up the tiny bird.

We ended our conversation and I finally got to put Parks down on the sidewalk, relieving my tired back for the short walk home. I kept seeing her face and hearing her words, “Thank You for Seeing Me.”

I looked at my sweet grandson and told him, “You did that, Parks. You made her day.”

How many times my grandsons, like all children, have something to teach me. It reminds me of how in the Gospel of Mark, people were bringing little children to Jesus for him to bless them and the disciples interfered. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. (Mark 14:10)

Thinking about the woman’s reference to being seen, reminded me of how one name for God in the Bible is El Roi— which in Hebrew translates “the God who sees me.”

In a devotional post by Melissa Spoelstra of Proverb 31 Ministries, she explains this Biblical reference in Genesis. https://proverbs31.org/read/devotions/full-post/2020/08/04/the-god-who-sees-me

Spoelstra writes, “The Lord revealed this name to a woman named Hagar in the Bible. She was an Egyptian servant who worked for a barren woman named Sarah. Sarah decided to have a child by asking her husband to sleep with Hagar. Sarah then mistreated pregnant Hagar to the point that she ran away to the desert.”

Spoelstra goes on to say, “I understand Hagar’s urge to run away. I have felt it many times. But through the name El Roi, we discover that in our lowest moments, someone sees us. God sees our pain. He hears our cries. After the Lord sent an angel to encourage Hagar, we find these words: “Thereafter, Hagar used another name to refer to the LORD, who had spoken to her. She said, ‘You are the God who sees me.’ She also said, ‘Have I truly seen the One who sees me?’” (Genesis 16:13).

We all want to be seen. There is nothing more satisfying than someone simply taking us into their space and being completely present with us. Many times we feel invisible to others because of our age, our skin color, our obvious disability that people avoid viewing. We don’t take the time to look at each other because our busy lives have us all rushing about–preoccupied and weighed down.

On that Thursday, Parks showed me what it is to see someone. He’s too young to have developed ideas about people from attitudes and prejudices he’s acquired in life; he doesn’t carry a memory of a previous conversation that showed fragility. He was simply waving and practicing his new skill of interacting with those he meets along his path. Parks brightened my neighbor’s day, as well as mine– reminding me how it is to see with a child’s eyes, to see with God’s eyes.

On this day, and in the days ahead, may you know the blessing of being seen.

11 thoughts on “I See You: Eyes of a Child

  1. So true, Connie. Perhaps, lots of times we are so preoccupied with our own lives and concerns, we fail to acknowledge those we meet who many times are dealing with far greater issues than we are. If we look, there’s always a need to be met and often, we can meet that need.

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    • Hey Betty,
      Thanks for reading and sharing your response.
      Yes, I agree that we’re often preoccupied and that keeps us absorbed in our own worries. Looking toward others’ needs helps them and in turn, will help us.
      Best to you,
      Connie

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  2. Connie, thanks again for such insight into life. As you referenced, we are to come to God as little children without all the preconceived ideas about things..
    Such a sweet story. Loved it,

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    • Hey Alberta,
      Thanks so much for reading. I’m glad you enjoyed this–since I liked telling the story. It is good to be reminded of how little children are and what that says about how we’re to be.
      Best to you, Alberta,
      Connie

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  3. “Keep the child within me, that I may lower the walls of our lives.” (me)
    This is a great lesson as well as a window into your world. Your true blessings are revealed in your Grandchildren. That part of you in them can be seen yet the real you is exposed thru their actions. It is nice that you can share that with your readers, that we may see the real “You”. Love and Blessing to you.

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  4. Pingback: Weekly Round-Up | Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer

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