I See You

A man wearing a white food service jacket behind the counter turned around, looked me in the eye, paused, and spoke to me. Stunned, I took an involuntary step backwards.

On this day, seemingly like so many others,  I walked through the cafeteria line, passing by the salad bar with its brown-edged iceberg lettuce, bright green peas and oily dressings. I breezed past the dry overcooked burgers and stir fries with thinly disguised left-overs from the previous day’s dishes. I came to a stop in front of the sandwich bar.

As a busy corporate executive, a quick lunch at the company cafeteria was my routine for over 10 years.  While I may have briefly taken notice of the usual display of overcooked carrots or chatted with my equally preoccupied work colleagues, what I did not see was the living breathing human beings around me.  Though I trekked the same route every day, year after year, I never saw the cooks or other food service people. I never saw this man, this man with his white starched jacket. Not ever.

This particular day I had just taken a break from a coaching workshop I had sponsored for my staff and myself.  We had focused deeply on the importance of seeing and treating every person we coached as a significant human being.  With this on my mind, as I went to lunch this day, I was different.  I did not walk mindlessly through the line, my mind on my next big project. Instead, I stopped, I paused, I saw the man in his white jacket behind the sandwich counter. I wondered about who he was. Really, who was he?  As he turned around, looked me in the eye, and made a comment about a night class he was taking, I felt an emotional shock wave.  This man had never spoken to me.  In fact I had never seen him speak to anyone.  I never really saw him, period!

Why? Why today?  Why today after so many days, so many years?

As he turned, he was transformed from the anonymous man in the white jacket to a man with blue eyes and a face ignited with energy as he talked about the rich experience he was having taking a class and learning in an area he was passionate about.  His long slim fingers gestured expressively as he talked about his dream of being a computer programmer.

How is it possible that the simple act of being present and seeing this man while literally looking at his back changed everything?  How did he know that I was present, that my energy was focused on him, that I saw him, that I was genuinely curious about who he was and what mattered to him?

Stunned, I took an involuntary step backwards as I was shocked that the mere act of seeing someone could change everything.  He felt my energy as I focused on him and responded by engaging with me for the very first time. Our moment of connection made this man fully alive to me and I wondered if he too felt more fully alive.


Make the Invisible, Visible

  • Take a moment to reflect on the many people you interact with in a day.
  • Now consider how many of those people you actually see as a person.
  • Consider the cost of being present? (In the example in my blog it was literally less than 5 minutes of my time).
  • Reflect on the value to the other person as well as yourself, if you were to see someone in your life as a valuable human being.
  • Commit to seeing someone in your life and acting in such a way that the person feels seen.

Acknowledge Your Strangers as Consequential

  • Read the book “Consequential Strangers – Turning Everyday Encounters Into Life-Changing Moments”.   Authors Melinda Blau and Karen L. Fingerman.
  • Make your list of 100 people (as per the above book) who affect your life. (Take your time. Your list will expand as you go through your days as see people with new eyes.)
  • Write a short tag line as to how that person effects your life. The book gives some great examples.
  • Choose 10 people on your list and determine how, in the next 3 months, you will do something new or different that lets that person know how they matter.

22 thoughts on “I See You”

  1. Mindfulness….something that we have all lost in the business of our lives. Good reminder to stop and connect!

  2. I believe the real measure of a person’s character is how they treat a person of apparent lesser position.

  3. KUDOS to you! What a beautiful blog! I pray for this every day when I ask the Lord to help me see myself & others through His eyes. Some of the most beautiful experiences in life come from personal encounters like these. I call them divine appointments & they’re life changing. Thank you for the wonderful reminder to stop, look & listen. . . not only with our eyes & ears, but with our hearts.

    Wishing you both many blessings in your new creative adventures. Thank you for sharing with us & allowing us to be a part of your sacred journey.

  4. Already, your purpose of inspiring others has been well launched! I was very moved by your story. It reminds me of a quote that I have kept forever but have no knowledge who wrote it and not quite sure I even have it right, but it reads: “This life is for loving, sharing, learning, smiling, caring, forgiving, laughing, hugging, helping, dancing, wondering, healing, and even more loving. I want to live my life in such a way that when I get out of bed in the morning, the devil says, ‘aw damn, she’s up!”

  5. Thanks Rae. Just what I needed this morning. A reminder to be kind and simply notice the value of another human being and honoring them with my full attention and non-judegmental curiosity.

  6. This reminds me of a plant visit several years ago. The supervisors had lined up and our group walked down the line, each saying hello and shaking their hands. About halfway down the line I noticed the supervisors’ names were on their bump caps and I started saying their name in my greeting. The difference in response was incredible. Each supervisor’s whole being shifted when they heard their name – bigger smiles, more enthusiasm, and they looked at me more closely as well. It was no longer an automatic greeting – it was a greeting to each person individually. A recognition. I’ve never forgotten that.

  7. Oh Raymond…This brings me to tears as I ponder a very slight shift I made a few years ago. One day I started to take notice of all the times I did not look people in the eye, let alone smile when I encountered them in an elevator, behind a counter, or during the course of a work day. I noticed how often individuals at cash registers don’t expect to receive acknowledgement of their presence. I get such pleasure now from a slight shift in my behavior.

  8. As mother used to say “We all get the same 6ft of earth”… it’s an illusion if we believe anything else.

  9. Wonderfully written with so much heart behind I See You. To see someone and make them feel significant is exactly what our world needs. When people are seen, confidence follows and I can only imagine a smile appears on their face as well. Thank you for sharing your passion with all of us.

  10. First, let me say how fabulous your blog is! The theme and your first post are incredibly important… now more than ever! Personal, professional, and political siloing is bleeding over into every area of our lives. Dismissing everything and/or everyone that doesn’t fit into personally approved boxes is committing our own futures to sure destruction on so many levels. Most importantly, the sacred tethers that bind us all! When we meet the space between with love, value, and appreciation new landscapes arise right before our eyes.

    Thank YOU for starting a dialog of “seeing” and “presence”. I’ve ordered, “Consequential Strangers” and will continue to internalized and purposely live your message every day.

  11. Rae – what you give you get back in multitudes. Being present ‘for someone else’ really makes you deeply understand who YOU are, and allows you to be present for yourself. If you take care of yourself you will be able to give others much much more. I love that you are helping me bring this to a level of consciousness. There are so many ‘miracles’ in our lives everyday…we just need to look for them and be open to seeing them.

  12. This made me think of an article Brené Brown wrote about disconnection and technology—very powerful and very important stuff: http://www.chron.com/opinion/outlook/article/Time-to-get-off-the-cell-phone-1733321.php
    There is a quote in the article I love “ when two people relate to each other authentically and humanly, God is the electricity that surges between them.” For me that surge is what it means to be connected with my own spirit and a bigger spirit that can make the otherworldly present in our lives.
    Your authenticity and vulnerability are shining through in this post. So glad you are sharing them with us.

  13. I stared at the photo for a long time as I let your message sink in…knowing that when I’m sitting on the beach the world is so much clearer to me, simpler really as the noise in my head is silenced and my vision of the world clears…the importance of simply seeing..then and only then I saw your face in the midst of it all…a picture in a picture…what a gift you are my friend…your words matter and help me reflect on who I want to be…I love your creative spirit

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