I was sitting around a table the other day where we were talking about our church, how we could do it better. We got around to talking about visitors, what we were doing right, what we were doing wrong. A woman I have a deep respect for, she is just so genuine, started talking about her dentist’s office. I know, I thought it was a weird rabbit to chase at first too. But then she explained that everyone at her dentist’s office had been trained to be present. They were told to make eye contact, not multi task, be active listeners. This woman said she felt better leaving the dentist than she did leaving the spa. Wow. Sign me up for a teeth cleaning.
The other day a student was trying to tell me a story. At first I was listening, but then….I got distracted. I was passing out papers or looking through other papers, or collecting other papers (I teach english, I have a lot of papers.) Who knows what I was doing, but I wasn’t listening anymore. He lowered his voice and banged his hands on his desk. He looked at me and cried out “NOTICE ME!”
I suppose it wasn’t the most respectful thing to do. I am his teacher after all. And this is the south. Perhaps, “excuse me ma’am” would have been better. I guess that is why I like freshman. Both of us are sometimes missing a filter. “Notice Me.” He isn’t the most popular kid; some of his peers think he is kind of weird…so they ignore him. In that moment, that was what his heart was calling out for, please someone notice me. Hear me. Show me that I matter.
I have heard formerly homeless people say that worse than living on the streets, or eating garbage, is consistently being ignored. Having hundreds or even thousands of people walk by you and not one make eye contact makes you feel less than human. Confirms the fear that we all have that we don’t really matter.
Even the Peanut and Rooster are not immune to needing to be noticed. It seems to be something we are born with, not something we grow into. Sometimes the Peanut will shove her little face between me and my computer, put her hands on mine. “Hi!” She’ll say. Yes love, you are right. It is time to notice you. Even the Rooster, our little contented baby, will give you those two incredible dimples if you squeeze a toe and ask her how she is doing. “Oh wow” her face says, “Thanks for noticing me down here. I noticed you too, you are lovely.”
It is Valentine’s day. Here at the school I work, you couldn’t possibly miss it. A number of my kids are walking around with teddy bears or balloons. Some gifts were not from boyfriends or girlfriends. Some were simply from friends. Maybe it is silly or shallow that these things make them happy. But today they walk around with proof that someone thought of them, cared for them, noticed them.
We are half way through I Love My Neighbor month at church, where we agree to make a concerted effort to actively love those around us. I’ve baked cupcakes and invited people over. I’ve picked up coffee for a colleague. All of these things are the same. All of these things say, “Hey, I was thinking about you. I noticed you. I saw that you had this need or that want. I noticed that you exist and I think you matter.”
I think there is a little freshman boy in us all. Hopefully we smell better, but I think there is a piece of us crying out “Notice Me!” Read my blog, friend me on Facebook, tell me my shoes are cute! Please somebody notice me today. Sometimes I am so busy noticing myself, my phone, my computer, my needs that are not being met, that I don’t have time to notice anyone else.
But here is where I have found the beautiful paradox of the gospel. When I notice you, truly notice, there is a piece of my soul that is noticed too…that need of mine is lessened. We noticed each other.