Seeing each other

The encounter lasted perhaps 30 seconds; I am unlikely ever to see again any of the people involved. Yet it has stayed with me as a reminder of the importance of small kindnesses.

I was out for a Sunday morning bike ride and happened to pass a couple of equally casual cyclists, headed the other way.

“Good morning!” I called to them.

No response from either; it was as if I hadn’t spoken. Maybe they were preoccupied; perhaps they didn’t hear me beneath their helmets. Still.

Then, 20 yards behind them, a man walking who had registered both my greeting and their silence. As I pedaled by, he looked me full in the face, met my eyes and smiled wide.  “Good morning!”  he called out.  “Good morning to you!”  I called back, my spirits lifted before they could fall.

Just that:  The incidental wound; nothing, really. And the unexpected kindness; everything, somehow.

Former President Bill Clinton, who travels widely on behalf of the global nonprofit foundation that bears his family’s name, describes the simple but powerful way people greet each other in the central highlands of Africa.

“One will say ‘Good morning, hello, how are you?’ ”  and the answer is not, ‘I’m fine; how are you?’ The answer, translated into English, is ‘I see you.’ That’s inherently empowering,” he says. “You have to be able to look at somebody and actually see them, and at least imagine what their lives are like.”

I don’t know if that stranger who happened to be walking in just the right place at just the right time  imagined what my life is like.  But he at least empathized with how I might have felt:  the greeting, the silence, the seeming invisibility. And called to me: I see you.

In that brief encounter, such richness, such illumination: how much we can do for each other with so little effort, with a few moments of intention and attention. These small kindnesses; these immeasurable gifts.

Seeing each other.  Just that.

 

 

Advertisements

18 comments

  1. I have experienced the silence before. It can hurt. When I read of this happening to you, my heart went out to you. I know it is over, but still. I wouldn’t wish for anyone to experience this. Such a wonderful example of human kindness with the man who called out to you with his well wishes following this incident. I am so happy that this is how it ended.

    Like

    1. Thank you for your tender heart and well wishes. I was glad it ended that way, too! I wish you the unpredictable kindness that stranger showed me, especially when you most need it..

      Like

  2. Yes!
    Beautiful post, I have been thinking lately about how even when people look sometimes they just don’t see. I love your story. thanks for sharing.

    Like

    1. So glad you enjoyed it. Thank you for the kind words.

      Like

  3. Susan Lukwago · · Reply

    Friend of 5.75 years whom I have not physically seen yet, I look forward to seeing you. Seeing each other. Just that.

    Like

    1. “Seeing each other” has special meaning for us, obviously. 🙂

      Like

  4. I see you, too, Cate, remember our time together, and carry you, my friend, with me always.

    Like

    1. I can hear your voice and see your sweet face in these words, old friend. Thank you. I know I’ll see you and Dennis out Colorado way one of these days. 🙂

      Like

  5. Gail Randall · · Reply

    The tyranny of autocorrect! Of course, I know it’s CATE, not Kate. Sheesh! And no idea how to edit it. The guilt of misspelling names is still so strong from our years in the ink wars. 🙂

    Like

    1. I absolve you, Sister. 🙂 That WAS a capital sin, wasn’t it?

      Like

  6. Seeing beyond out separateness and seeing our self in the other….
    Opening to peace in the world 😃
    A genuine smile is powerful!
    Thanks Cate!

    Like

    1. You’re welcome. Thanks for reading and affirming, Val.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Gail Randall · · Reply

    That, exactly, yes. And a fine morning to you, Kate!

    Like

    1. And to you, friend! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Like

  8. Oh thank you! Beautiful vignette.
    BTW today is International I stand for Love Day, as declared by Portland artist Sarah Love. Here is her site if you want more uplift: http://www.istandforlove.com
    Your post perfectly reflects how we can make small efforts to profound effect.
    Love from across the blogosphere-
    Iris

    Like

    1. Love back to you, and thank you for sharing the link!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Eloquent Existence · · Reply

    I see you

    Like

    1. Thank you. Just reading that warmed my heart. 🙂 I see you, too, in the attention and kindness you gave me by reading and commenting on this post.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: