This is going to be a short one. I’ll start (as it seems I always do) by apologizing for not writing in so long. I let m life become too busy too often. Now on with the show.
I was in Chicago a couple of months ago, and some events transpired that gave me a case of the heavy heart. I had a few hours to myself one day, and I ended up taking a walk through the northern part of the city. I was letting my thoughts ramble around my head, and didn’t even notice myself smile and nod to a man who was in his front yard. This type of thing is not out of the ordinary in Arkansas where I come from. I wasn’t trying to intrude on his privacy or make him uncomfortable, I just enjoy acknowledging other people. What I received from him was an indescribably cold stare. He looked threatened and defensive as if I was challenging him to a fight. It caught me completely off guard. I lowered my eyes and kept walking. I decided to try the same thing again a few minutes later, and I got a response similar to the first. I didn’t understand at all. I wasn’t dressed offensively; I had no motives; I couldn’t see any reason for them to have treated me as they did. As I walked more, I made it a point to make eye contact with other walkers. I never once got a smile or a nod back. Women looked at me like I was a rapist, men gave me hard stares and moved quickly by.
As I thought about it all later, my heart hurt. Not because people had been cold with me. I have something of a titanium spirit at this point in my life. I’m used to opposition, and it no longer bothers me as it once did. Instead, I hurt for those people. Either something had happened to them that made them so unreceptive to human contact, or they had been raised to not trust other people. I understand that Chicago is a much different place than Little Rock. There are far more predators on the streets, and it is a more dangerous place. Still, I hurt for those people who didn’t seem able to receive a loving smile or a genuine greeting. It seems unnatural to me that human connection can come across as a threat. I hurt for people who cannot see it as genuine. I hurt for our world where we are brought up to shun actions of true kindness and look for the ulterior motives that are sure to be found.
I’ve had a phrase in my mind the last few months. “Let no man or woman live unseen.” It is only seven simple words, but to me it means everything. If I had a mantra, this would be it. I think it is our duty as humans to love one another. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-39) Whether you believe in God or not, this advice is solid. To love those around you just as much as you love yourself is a powerful notion. Whether they receive that love or not is not the issue. We must continue to give it. We live in a terribly broken world in desperate need of people who are willing to give instead of take.
Maybe this all sounds too trite to you. Love people? Of course we’re supposed to do that. We’ve been taught that since kindergarten. I agree, but I don’t think very many people actually do it. How many individuals do we pass by every day and not see? Try something. Try to keep your eyes open and count how many people you see every day. It soon becomes an overwhelming task, but do it anyway. Then count how many of these people you have interaction with. It is incredibly convicting to look at the results. We see so many people every day, and so often we let them slip past us unseen. Not all of us have lived the unseen life, so we can’t fully understand how much it hurts to be passed over. I have lived that life though, and it cuts so deep to honestly think that everyone who passes over you places more value on their daily tasks than on your human life.
This is a problem; a big problem. Our world is a decaying place. It is full of people trying to advance themselves. It is daunting to imagine changing the way that things are. To be honest, you can’t. You cannot change the entire world. There are seven billion people on the planet. Based on the average life span, you would have approximately a quarter of a second to speak to each person on earth. And that is assuming you start from the second you are born and never sleep for over 72 years. It is impossible, but that isn’t the point. You cannot change the whole world, but you can change your world. You can affect the slice of earth that you dwell in every day. How? See people. Truly see them. Talk to the guy that you order your lunch from, the girl crying at her locker in the hallway, the man who looks overwhelmed at your job. What is the point of living a selfish life?
“Let no man or woman live unseen.”
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