To look and really see
When is the last time you were in a public place and you stopped to just listen and pay attention? To look around and take notice? On a recent visit to IHOP, I told my daughter to sit quietly and listen. “Listen to what?,” she said. I wanted her to be present. I wanted her to look and really see.
A microcosm of human interaction
To our left, there was a man sitting in a booth alone, happily singing along with the oldies that were playing in the restaurant. The man next to us, on our right, was sitting with his wife. He spoke to her so gently, with a soft tone and a sweet kindness in his voice. Their hair was gray and I wondered how many years they had been married. It had been long enough to know the value of being together, that was obvious.
In the aisle there was an older lady who couldn’t hear well asking a young couple how old their baby was. The baby was crying, and I think the question wasn’t so much about the age of the baby as it was one mother to another saying “it’s ok that the baby is crying.” The sound of a baby crying, so familiar, so far removed from the teenager now looking back at me. It’s true when people say “the days are long but the years are short.” I’d do them all over in a second.
The IHOP employee clearing tables is enthusiastic and needs no one else to be joyful, but draws others in easily for a smile and an encouraging word. I hear him say, “Jesus take the wheel” and “I could talk about Jesus all day.”
Our waitress is on her game today. She’s good. She doesn’t seem stressed. The last time we saw her she was frustrated and said, “Damn, am I the only one working around here?” The manager sent her home early that day. We all need a break.
A veteran smiles at us as we walk out. I know he’s a veteran by his hat.
Beauty in the everyday
You have to listen and pay attention and see life. See stories. No earbuds, or as I say “ear things,” or games on an iPhone can be better than real human connection. There is beauty in the everyday movement of our lives. The words. The voices. The meals. The kind words to and from a stranger. The smiles, the touch of a hand, the work, the making of a life.
My daughter may not have noticed all of these things the same way that I did, but I hope that someday she will. I hope that she will see what’s important and special about being human. IHOP provided the perfect microcosm of human interaction to remind us to look and really see those around us.