Story 5: Do You See Me, Do I See You?

When you look at me what do you see? You see a black man. You see a physically fit man. You see a man losing his hair. You see a smart man, a writer and reader of books. You see how tall I am and a host of other things about my outside appearance.

But if you looked into my eyes, into my heart, and into my soul, you would see yourself. You would see another human being going through life and experiencing life just like you. You would see someone who hurts and rejoices. Just like you. You would be seeing my inside. And it would be just like you.

We don’t really have to look too deep to see the sameness of us all. You could take a knife and cut us and see that our blood, our flesh, and our bones all look the same.

But I am suggesting we look even deeper still. Look completely past the physical person and you’ve got to see their spirit. You’ve got to see their “humanness.”

If you have a small amount of social intelligence, or a wee bit of insight, you’ve learned the importance of looking someone in the eye. They say we do that as a sign of respect. We also do it to show our own confidence.

Eye contact is the most intimate way to communicate with another. And I think it is because when we look into another’s eyes we look past their outside appearance and see inside. When we look another in the eye they can see our sincerity. That’s deep communication.

If you look a person in the eye and see their humanness, their divinity, it will be hard for you to hurt them. It is when we look at people as “other” or different from us, not human, that we are able to hurt them. That’s why even soldiers must be convinced that the enemy is less than them and evil.

So, if you want our society to be a more accepting and loving place, you may have to look some folks in the eye. Now you can’t look people in the eye that don’t look like you or that are different from you if you don’t hang out with different people. You’ve got to socialize with folks outside your normal circle. Then you will have an opportunity to look them in the eye. You will get to see that they are human just like you.

I’ve noticed lately that many of my fellow baby boomers are not getting the opportunity to see others as human and divine. They have less contact with others. They are in their own bubble.

We were the “love and peace” generation. Our generation saw laws change. But changing laws isn’t the same as changing hearts.

Our generation learned to go to school together, work together and even sometimes live close to each other but there still seemed to be something missing. That’s the love part. That’s really getting to know someone different intimately. I’ve gone to school with whites and made good friends since fourth grade, but I never got invited to sleep overnight. And don’t think about me dating their sister.

Now don’t get me wrong, I never invited my white friends to spend the night either. And I didn’t suggest that they date one of my sisters. So, I’m not trying to be holier than thou, just honest.

Because my generation went to school and worked together, I think we had the opportunity to get to know each other better. I think we were more tolerant, polite and understanding than we would have been without that contact.

But take away that contact and you have retired folks living in their own bubble and losing the opportunity to look into another’s eyes. Unlike when we were in school together or at work together, baby boomers seem to be the loudest in the social and political discourse. We seem to have forgotten all the lessons of the sixties and seventies.

Now that I’m not in the workforce I try to participate in a number of different groups. I don’t want to just see the world from my bubble.

I participate in my fraternity that is full of black men from age twenty to ninety. I’m a member of a men’s circle where I’m the only black man and a men’s circle where I’m one of the youngest men. I belong to a storytelling guild of cool and over age sixty-five white women that also includes Asian, Latin and Native American women and I’m one of the few men. I’m in another storytelling guild that includes more different types of folks than I can list, Appalachian, Jewish and Texas storytellers are just a few. I attend a spiritual center that has LBGT members. I have a diverse community.

But what really makes the difference is something that I see affecting many in my generation. That something is my nieces. Once my nephews married someone that wasn’t black I had a choice to make. Was I going to limit or expand my love? I chose to expand it.

So, my nieces Corina, Stephanie, Lisa, Gina and Amanda gave me great nieces and nephews that are of Asian and Caucasian descent. And you can’t tell me that Mya, Faith, Kahlil, Jasmine, Jadea, Iesha and Tanajah aren’t all divine human beings. And you can bet their white, Mexican and Asian uncles and grandfathers think they are divine too. We all love them equally.

You’ve got to see the other person as you see yourself. That’s how you do more than just follow the laws required for us to live together. That’s how you get to love. You’ve got to see me. I want to see you.

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