Our life is covered in a million overlapping peripheries that flit on the edges of our vision like white blood cells when we stare at the bright sun.
You have seen the world, the tree with the lights in it, the tapestry, and you must tell someone. It is a desire, a bubbling out of you that cannot be quenched. I must find someone and I must share this so that they can see too. I have seen how to live down to the dregs, and though I don’t know how to do it perfectly, I must spread the word.
Last winter I sat on the bus every day, coming home from school, and tried to see, truly see people. There are 19 million people in this city — you would think it would be easy to see someone, or even five or six. But it is something that we are naturally very bad at doing, like riding a bike for the first time. We fall down a lot — because it is very hard — but worth it.
What does seeing people mean? It means looking at faces and seeing souls behind them. Looking into their eyes and seeing their problems, worries, and passions. To see your own soul is tiring enough – to see another’s also? You will collapse under the weight of all the people in the bus. You are living twenty, thirty, fifty lifetimes at once. Don’t dare to think of the 19 million people in the entire city — you will surely die.
This sort of looking is dangerous, and unusual. People will see you starting at them, and look away as if you are a hunter. Eye contact is foreign when you are on a bus. But because no one looks at anyone it means that you can look at everyone, if you are good, without them noticing.
People are most interesting when they think they aren’t being watched. They cry, laugh, and love, and the whole while their shell is down. It’s not eavesdropping but it’s an open-ness that’s beautiful. And so I look, watch, and learn. I’ve never seen two people alike. Try it. Do you see their souls? Do you see their hearts, beating red when the girl laughs, genuinely, resting her head on her man’s shoulder? Do you see the little boy who has dueled with monsters? Or that old man, straight and pressed, sitting at attention, mind in years gone by — sitting just next to the high-schooler, backpack and baggy jeans, depression hidden behind sunglasses and earbuds. There are people around you.
Transparency is a beautiful thing. Like a boy, playing at pirates while he walks down the busy streets of Moscow. Little girls painting christmas trees on foggy bus windows with small fingers. You can dress them how you want: perfectly curled hair and pink bows, hipster sweater vests and bow ties- they still pick their nose. You, adult, you have learned to hide well. Glazed over eyes as you fill out your forms to fax, but your child just sits there, coloring at the table. And when he sees my smile, he doesn’t look away and retreat into himself. He smiles back, because he knows that he has found a friend. The moment when two souls meet, and they know, somehow, in their depths, that there is safety in knowing that you are both… human. And maybe he couldn’t tell you in so many words, but I can.
Two strangers, in an airport, saying messy goodbyes to their respective lovers. And when the boys have gotten on the plane to fly away from Kansas City, the girls walk together to the parking garage. At the end of it all, it’s okay to give a quick hug and say a small prayer. Because our two souls have for a moment crossed paths, and found that we are both human, and that we both love dearly and deeply. With aching hearts we love bravely. Transparency is a beautiful thing.
[May] the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ. Philemon 1:6
Every face is a life. Every life has a story, and a path that they are following. How will you shape those paths? Will you tragically nudge someone off the right path? Will you, perhaps, joyfully nudge someone towards the right path, without ever noticing. And you pay your bus fare and step off and you have changed a life that will never be the same.
There’s no such thing as just a bus ride. You are surrounded by people, nineteen million or just nineteen. Look inside people’s hearts. Dare to care, and you will. Let these people matter to you. They are hurting. They are waiting. It’s very hard to teach someone to see. But people can see when you see. Because when you have seen the tapestry your eyes glow with it, and the cedar in the shining lights is yours for the taking and it fills your heart. There is beauty in this world — there is love and story that is arching over all of creation.
So see and be seen. Change lives. Come into the storm.
Published on 2 February, 2015. Last updated on