Lately I’ve had reason to wonder if most people ever even notice the vast number of people they encounter, or if the majority really do treat most others like a non-descript armchair ready to do its specific function whenever needed, but barely recognized.
I have a special place in my heart for people who get easily taken for granted like that. I think, at least in part, that’s because I grew up in a public service family. My dad is a retired firefighter, my brother followed him onto the job, my hubby is a police officer, my mom was a paramedic, likewise most of my extended family worked for the city or state… public service. Me? I’m in public service too, of a different sort. I “work” for Jesus, and a local church pays me a bit to do that… its just a variation on the theme. Or, is it the origination of the theme? There’s something to think about. But, I know it isn’t always a person’s job that renders them unnoticed – it can also be an outward characteristic, an illness or handicap, their style of clothing… the list could go on and on.
But anyway, I often find myself noticing the unnoticed people. Lots of people tease me about my daily NY State thruway commute without the “faster” payment device called Easy Pass. I prefer to use the booths with humans in them, so I can say hello, thank you and in some small way connect with the toll collectors. After six years of commuting the same way I’ve made “friends” with a couple of the collectors – one even teases me about whatever time I’m passing by saying “You’re late!”
I direct a children’s outreach that, among other things, serves breakfast to inner city kids on Saturday mornings. That often requires early morning trips to the grocery. I’ve been going to the same cashier pretty much every week for 6 years. She’s older, petite, and the other cashiers seem to dislike her. But, she knows my routine, and we’ve talked enough over time that she knows what the mass quantities of pancake mix and apple juice are for. Today, she told me that she won’t see me next Saturday morning because she’s taking care of her grandchildren, but she’ll see me in 2 weeks.
There are lots of examples of people we don’t really “see” – toll collectors, grocery clerks, waiters & waitresses, garbage men, mail carriers, takeout delivery folks, receptionists, repairmen, police, firefighters, janitorial staff… not to mention, people in wheelchairs, older people, homeless people, poor people… and sometimes even me and you. It is so easy to take people for granted. To fail to see that, though they do a particular job or have a particular characteristic, they are fellow humans created in the image of God with dignity and deserving of acknowledgement and (gasp) appreciation for their part in the big plan of humanity.
We humans need to be seen, we need to connect with others. But my theory is that we can only be truly seen if we are willing to truly see others.
What do you think??