Do you see me Standing here next to you?
by Peg Coleman
The end of the year is closing in and while for many that means the excitement of the holidays filled with special events, shopping, or maybe even a trip to a distant land, all fit into this little space of time. For many in business it can mean a mountain of details needing attention before an ever-present looming deadline. So one could argue that it’s understandable when we go rushing past each other on the street or in the store with furrowed brows or anxious looks on our faces not so much living IN the present moment as caught up with the lists of things that need to get done.
Yesterday I was that person with the furrowed brow. After a long day at work filled with what seemed like a thousand and one things that needed to be done, the choice was to go straight home from the office and leave the grocery shopping for another day, or stop on the way home and get it done. Get it done--that says it all. Thinking it better to get it done and not have to deal with it later I stopped at the store. At the entrance was the cheerful bell ringer. I walked past with a limp wave and pulling out my list set about figuring which aisle to start on to make it the most efficient trip possible.
It didn’t take long to fill the cart and get in line--of course there was a line! Thinking the one I was in was moving too slowly, I moved the cart to another lane which turned out to be half the speed of the first--isn’t that the way? Eventually making it to the cashier I realized that unless I bagged my own groceries it was going to be a very long night. I began to bag. Now in the protected area of the cart I had placed a carton of a dozen eggs and as I turned to look, the cashier was pulling them up out of the cart in a rather clumsy, careless fashion and then the unthinkable happened--the carton opened and out spilled one dozen eggs --over the cart, over her hands, over the bottles of water sitting on the bottom of the cart, onto the floor. I just stared. No, please, this could not be happening, I just want to go home. But I waited while the clerk wiped off one bottle after another and handed them to me to bag until at last everything was in the cart. I paid and left.
On the drive home, I began thinking about that cashier. She was probably in her 50’s or 60’s. As I remembered her face I realized she looked tired. Maybe her feet hurt. She may well be facing stresses that I have never had to think about --but did that occur to me at the time? It did not, not until the drive home and then it was too late. I hadn’t SEEN her -- I had only seen my list of things that still needed to get done.
As I’ve thought about it many times over these past hours, I thought of the fact that our suicide rate is the highest it’s ever been. We -- I -- walk past people who need to be seen. Every place we go there are people who need someone to see them and someone to hear them and someone to stand with them in the midst of their lives whether we know all of the details of what they are facing or not. Sometimes they just need to know that someone SEES them. So I share these thoughts not only as judgement against myself, but also with the hope that its lesson will be ever before me.
Do you see me standing here next to you? Do you hear me screaming silently within as I put a smile on my face so I blend in? As you glance my way as you rush by to the next thing on your list do you ever wonder for a moment if I’m hungry, scared, or exhausted just trying to get through one more day?
These are the voices of the real “silent majority.” How many of us shake our heads and quietly say “No, I do not see you as I rush about my day because my own concerns loom so large in my mind that I can’t see beyond them to think of you.”
Today is a new day. Today can be different. Today we can choose to see those in front of us, those who serve us, those who cut in front of us as we drive, and those who stand on street corners with signs. We can choose to smile, to lift someone’s burden, to let a stranger know we see them. Today can be different.