Being seen is everything.
For those who have been banished to the margins of our society, being seen feeds the soul with dignity and a spirit of community and belonging. Mother Teresa once said, “The most devastating form of hunger is that of loneliness.” I have also heard it said that the opposite of love is not hate; it’s indifference.
To feel invisible can bring deep sadness and affects our sense of purpose and meaning of life. But to be seen can revive our spirit. When I encounter brothers or sisters whose only home is the streets, I know from personal experience that they may need a few bucks to get them through, but what is also needed, and maybe even more important, is a connection – a feeling that they are part of the mainstream of life. We all need to be reminded that we are part of a larger community. We all need to have someone be curious about us and want to hear our story. When that happens, we feel more connected to the real community of all God’s people.
In 2018 during the Episcopal General Convention in Austin, Texas we traveled to the T. Don Hutto Detention Center for women immigrants with a contingent of other Episcopalians committed to criminal justice reform, and to stand in solidarity with the women imprisoned there. Hundreds of us stood on the road facing the prison. Then I noticed that one of the women was moving something white up and down the thin slit of the vertical window – a white towel or piece of paper[MOU1] . I realized that the women were waving at us. I began waving back and shouting, “I see you!” Soon, all the others were waving and chanting “I see you!” “Te vio!”
Later, we heard that the women had contacted a representative of the Episcopal Church to say that all the time we were standing outside, they were huddled around the windows, and stayed there until the last of our group left. They wanted us to know that they saw us, and it meant everything to them that we were there for them. There is no doubt that we were all seen by God that day. It means everything to be seen and to know that you are not alone. The impact of being truly seen is of inestimable value to the human spirit.
Never underestimate the power of being seen.