I’ve been noticing lately that Gryffin and Isaiah don’t categorize people yet. When I see people I instantly categorize them, usually without any forethought; even when I don’t want to. Young, sketchy, trying-too-hard, white, hipster, educated, elderly, beautiful, hokey, hippie, you get the idea.
Observing Isaiah and Gryffin encounter people in the world has been surprising to me. When I see our friend, Brian, on the street corner of 15th and Dravus, I see a homeless guy. We’ve gotten to know him a little over the last couple of months and we’ve brought him bread and socks and sleeping bags and jars of honey (Gryffin’s idea, that one – super practical, I know) but I still mostly see him as a homeless guy. I want to just see him as Brian, friend of ours and fellow traveler in the world, but if I’m honest, I don’t yet. I feel awkward and nervous talking with him, I don’t know what to say or how to be and sometimes, though I’m ashamed to admit it, I hope for the green light so we can just breeze through the intersection with a hearty wave and a smile, off the hook for another day.
Gryffin and Isaiah, though, seem to have no qualms whatsoever with regard to Brian. They don’t seem to see him as homeless. They just see him as a friendly guy who happens to need a sleeping bag. They gather things around the house to give him and they strain in their seats when we are approaching the intersection, saying “do you see him, Mama!? Is he there, Mama?!” And they eagerly roll down their windows so they can chat with him at length.
To be honest, Brian usually looks about as disquieted by the whole thing as I am. Neither one of us seems to know quite what to make of it of it all. It’s awkward and uncomfortable but something about their vulnerability and unveiled ease with him is bewitching and seems to beckon us all toward something we want but don’t know how to attain.
It happens other places, too. When we were standing in line once behind a guy in a wheelchair, I smiled in greeting but didn’t want to stare or look too long at his chair. So I turned away. You know, being polite. Gryffin, though, went right up to him and just said all casual and nonchalant, “nice wheels.” And the two of them gabbed happily about the wheelchair and turbo speed and aerodynamics until we reached the front of the line. Where I saw a guy in a wheelchair, Gryff just saw a guy; a guy who might just be interested in talking shop with him about all things vehicular as he is wont to do these days.
I’ve often heard people say that they want to see people as God sees them. But that’s… hard. Too abstract, I think. Although I understand the sentiment and even striven to attain it at times, I’ve never been able to visualize it very well. Now I think I have a visual to work with. I want to see people like Isaiah sees them; like Gryffin does. Without malice, superiority, judgement, fear. I know that it won’t be long before they start the sad process of compartmentalizing the people they meet. It’s inevitable, I guess. And depressing. But if I can learn from them now how to really see people, maybe they can learn from me later when the pressure is brought to bear and they begin to lose their way.