Something strange happened to me this evening. I was on my usual 45-minute walking route on the final stretch before I would make a right onto my block. It was at the local school in my area. People were coming out of cars and I could see kids gather outside the front doors, what was going on I have no clue.
So I’m walking at a moderately brisk pace—headphones in and audiobook rolling—and I’m eager to get back home for dinner. But then I see this man coming in opposite direction, and from a distance, I could tell his pace was much slower than mine. For some reason, I slowed down—just a touch. I don’t know why.
And as we passed, I chose not to ignore, but to look at the man. He was 50-looking. If I had to put a number on it, it would be 50. No more, no less, just 50 flat. He was a Caucasian dressed in black (?), but to be honest I don’t remember much of his attire. What struck me most was his face.
He had what I could only describe, a stone face. One with moderately chiseled wrinkles; some cut deep, some only blunted the surface of his skin. Like most elderly people, his face was well worn-out with clearly marked contours. In that brief moment that our eyes met, his face reminded me of the Grand Canyon.
Only, a sad Grand Canyon. Because this time I really saw him. I didn’t just look at him, I saw him. And as I did, I wondered, “what are you going through?” and “what troubles are happening in your life?” Again, I don’t know why, why on this evening, and why with this man. Maybe because he was walking out at night, alone, and slowly—but then again, I do that sometimes.
And at the same time as I thought those thoughts, I felt he was talking to me with his eyes and his look—ohh that look. This is what I drew: “You have it so good, you don’t know how good you have it. You’re so young and have a whole life in front of me. Just look at me. I’m frail, old, and lonely.” Then I felt guilty.
Like two trains that pass each other on the railroad, the man was gone, and I was… somewhere. I hadn’t noticed it, but my brisk pace had become a leisure stroll, and I forgot I was even listening to an audiobook. And once again, I don’t know why.
It really made me think. I also didn’t believe that just happened and everything I was experiencing. And then it hit me.
“Please see me.”
Though the man didn’t explicitly say those words, that was the message I received from… somewhere, somehow.
It’s weird because normally you just walk past people on the streets and go about your day. From experience—and in general—teens and young people always seem to ignore you. But old people? They’re different. Not all of them, but enough to make me notice. Because they’ve lived life and they’ve gone through some hard stuff. And they look at you differently that way.
Longing for the past.
Hope for the future.
Sometimes, all we want is to be seen. We want other people to feel our hurt and see past who we present ourselves as. I know I do. And I think it’s our duty to give that gift to those people. The gift of just knowing someone out there sees where we’re at.