Thursday, November 15, 2018

The Importance of Being Seen

In my family growing we were always late; always. Maybe it had something to do with 4 people trying to use one bathroom, two kids with too many different activities but a lot of the time it was because of my dad. My dad had this amazing yet annoying ability to make friends or find someone he knew or a squirrel looking like it needed a friend. 

Undoubtedly we would start to leave somewhere and halfway to the door; I turn around my dad is talking to someone almost completely clueless of me and totally clueless that we were about to leave or the time. Cut to thirty minutes later, I’m sitting on the floor, in the grass, on the car twiddling my thumbs when he finally finishes and says, “Let’s go.” Really let’s go, dude I’ve been saying that for thirty minutes or eventually I learned not to say it at all just find a comfy-ish spot and my book (we’d learned to always have one handy) and wait until he was done.
It was a running joke with people who knew my dad or my family; “you have to tell him we need to be there at 5” for something that started at 5:30 and had us coming in the door at 5:40. A thirty minute cushion or more depending on the event. 

After he died his ability to talk to anyone anything really was the main story I heard about or more like the ghost that followed me around my hometown. I hated it at first: I missed him so much I couldn’t breathe but all anyone wanted to talk about when they saw me or heard my last name was him. And I’ve always struggled with figuring out who I am separate from who my family is. But my dad’s gift for listening is a memory of him that has just endured. 

One time I finally asked him why he knew so many people or why couldn’t he just duck like the rest of us. And he looked at me and said, “Sometimes people just need five minutes of your time.” Cue of my snarky response but he would continue, “Five minutes where you look them in the eye and really listen to what they have to say, you don’t think of what you’ll say next or where you have to be or what groceries you need. You focus on the person and what they are telling you.” And suddenly I had no snark. I noticed something though; after my stubborn self got out of the way. 

Sometimes it was easy talking about the Redskins or dropping in the bank and sometimes I noticed my dad was checking in on a sick relative or someone who was having a bad day or someone who just needed someone to see them. 

It’s taken me a lot of years but I finally get it. My dad was showing me and everyone the importance of being seen and being valued. Of someone coming to you, looking you in the eyes and saying “I see you and you matter. So I’m going to take these five minutes to make sure you feel that.” 

For someone who struggles with anxiety, health issues, and past scars feeling seen means EVERYTHING. I start tearing up everytime that’s happened to me lately. I’m not sure why but I know it’s something between “what do I do with this” and “holy cow they aren’t running away from me and my stuff.” And maybe it’s a sign from my dad that today’s going to be okay; his friendship magic wore off on me too. And maybe that was his bigger point: showing his daughters and community that a little act of kindness, five minutes out of your day can truly change someone’s day. 

And maybe if we all tried that every once and awhile, we’d come together more than we fall apart and maybe we all would get a chance to heal and know that hope really is still here.

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