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Hidden in Plain Sight

I am not famed for my observation, if anything, quite the opposite; my lack of observation is infamous. I once fell down a mechanics pit when walking across a garage because I hadn’t noticed it. I’ve also run through a glass door which I didn’t realise was closed. And once I came home from work as usual, and bumped into my housemate and his friend by the front gate. My housemate’s friend asked me if I liked the new cladding on the front of the house. I looked up and behold the whole front of the house had changed! “it’s lovely” I replied, “when was that done?” “Three weeks ago,” came the reply!

As I was playing with the toddlers at Nippers on Friday I realised that I had never actually spoken a word to many of them (not counting “raaaaaaaaar” and “beep boop”). It never really seemed necessary. The toddlers rarely need to say anything to me because I can see how they’re feeling and what they want by looking at them. And it’s always much easier to express myself with strange facial expressions and interpretive dance (How different Sunday services would be if I tried that for my sermons). If they feel shy then I become shy – I hide behind the nearest confused looking adult and play peek-a-boo. If they feel adventurous then I become an adventure – a crazy lion or a low flying aeroplane. And if they feel inquisitive then I become a fellow treasure hunter – investigating hidden corners or looking for birds out of the window.

But then I leave that space and become trapped in my own world again. Not that that is a bad place to be. In fact, it’s quite wonderous I assure you, and there are times that I need to retreat to safety and restoration that it affords. But too often I refuse to see those around me preferring the comforts of my own priorities than to really look at those around me. The kind of intentionality to see and to care that I inhabit with the toddlers in Nippers only lives in short specific places throughout the day. I wonder what a difference I could make to those around me if I really tried to see them, if I chose to really care about how they were?

Now I know that adults aren’t nearly as transparent as toddlers when it comes to their body language betraying their feelings (I only occasionally have members of the church family stomping their feet in the corner of the room). Yet I am sure that there is much that would be shown if I tried to see, if I took the time to look and to ask. It’s not that I don’t care, of course I do, but I fear that sometimes I only care about the troubles of others when they find me, rather than looking for the troubles of others that they don’t know how to express. I care as a response, but maybe I can learn to care as a choice?

Originally written for the April 2022 ABC Newsletter

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