Love looks around.
A quote by a man in Togo quoted by a woman who was there to heal the people there. She moved on from that point soon after, changing the slide and shifting to the other side of the stage. But I thought about it for a while longer. In fact, a week or two out I can safely say those three words were my main takeaway from the message.
The story is, a woman was on a crowded bus. Looking around, she saw a mother and her daughter. The daughter was standing because there was no seat, nodding off as she stood. The woman made eye contact with this child, sensing exhaustion, and held her arms open. The child climbed onto her lap without a word. A reassuring smile to the mother, and learned that they were living in Portland in absolute poverty, unable to get on their feet. The woman was able to help them, get the church involved, and even wrote a book inspired by the family.
Love looks around. Love is patient, love is kind, but it must look around in order to be patient, to be kind. How different this story would have been had the woman been on her phone the whole trip. How closely do I resemble the latter story than the former.
And it got me thinking; do I look around? Do I see other people? First of all, do I even look at them, and secondly, do I see them? In the fullest, most Quakerly sense of the word, do I see people?
Well, let’s just say there is room for improvement. I was dispirited at my apparent failure to be a good person, but then I had a lightbulb moment (a small one, so as not to disturb the guy playing World Star War Zelda 27 with the special gaming keyboard in front of me).
There are two disciplines that help me to look around. They are writing and photography. Writing has helped me to look around and study details that in my mind are both insignificant and immensely important. I look at the people around me more when I’m in the process of writing something, because they are ceaseless sources of inspiration and glimpses into humanity. Similarly, with my camera in hand, I start looking around for things that hold art. I look up, I look down, and I stare awkwardly out windows. I know it is awkward because people will sometimes catch me looking intently at something and follow my gaze to find that there is nothing special or interesting in my line of vision.
I’m not saying I am a more loving, empathetic person simply because I write, or because I take pictures. But they do put me in a position to see, to look around. Loving will always be a choice, but writing and photography are two activities that put me in a position to make the choice. It’s like leading that stubborn horse to the water. You can’t make it drink, but it wouldn’t have the option to if you hadn’t led him there.