I recall the talks I have had with my daughter about her powers of observation. She sees a lot of things we do not, yet some of the things we expect her to see she does not.
We attend the same places over and over again. We go to the park, to the same restaurants, to church, etc., with the same service people. But she does not notice or recognize the same people who wait on her day after day, even though many of those people recognize and greet her with familiarity.
I have encouraged my family to be aware of the people around them, and to notice the people who work for them and serve them. Showing these people recognition, the often unrecognized, is an important part of humanizing them and the interactions we have with them.
And while I point out this lack of observation on my daughter’s part, I also will admit to places where I similarly miss observations, or mis-interpret them.
In my runs and bike rides around my neighborhood, I have come across cars with people resting in them. Based on their conditions, and repetitions of sightings, I have wondered, finally, after time, whether some of these people might actually be living in these vehicles..
But if so, what would/should my response be? Or am I mis-interpreting these observations?
There is always a lot going on around us, and what we see, and how we see it, can be very important. We can be like my daughter, who seems to miss the people. Or we can be like me, seeing something, uncertain what it means, or what to do.
Even worse, can be the people who see, who observe, and who decide for themselves what is going on and treat those people that way, without realizing what is really going on with them. Speaking for someone who does not want to be spoken for, in a way they don’t want to be represented, is even worse than missing them entirely.
One can observe and do good, by really seeing the person. One can observe and choose a “good” that isn’t good, by seeing a type, a group, a class, and ignoring the person himself for the good one has already decided is needed.