Just See Them

(Excerpt from my soon-to-be-published book, Just One Step: The Journey to Your Unstoppable You)

On January 15, 2018, less than a year after my Camino journey, Sandra Nischwitz (known as Mom to me) took her last breath. Mom was 80 years old, and I realized many months after her death, that Mom was my biggest fan. She loved my travels and adventures, and every phone call was assured to start with this question from Mom: “Where are you?” And I always looked forward to sharing my whereabouts with Mom.

When I was with my Mom in her last twenty-four hours, I had the opportunity to talk with many of the staff at her facility. I especially remember one aide who wasn’t working, but someone let her know that Mom was in her final hours, and she made a point to come visit Mom. As I listened to this young woman talk to Mom – thanking Mom – I discovered something special and magical about Mom – how much and how well she loved. More specifically, Mom just loved, and we heard dozens of these stories over that week.

What I’ve realized and learned from this experience is that there are four elements of the love that Mom gifted to so many people during her life. They’re simple and profound:

  1. See Them
  2. Accept Them
  3. Believe in Them
  4. Bless Them

Today, I want to focus on the first of these love elements – See Them!

You would think that this element of loving others – seeing them – would be easy, but this involves so much more than physically seeing them. It requires a commitment to and openness towards others. It requires that you acknowledge and listen to them and that you take a genuine interest in them and in their lives, including caring enough to remember them and intimate parts of their lives. Unfortunately, we live in a world that’s so fast paced, so full of activities and so full of distractions that seeing people isn’t as natural or as easy as it sounds. And seeing others is just the beginning of loving others.

While people will often share themselves with us, this often comes after they sense a level of genuine interest, and the best way to communicate this interest is to ask questions. Our culture has devolved to one that’s fascinated with talking and telling, and questions have taken a back seat in our communication. Personally, I love (even treasure) questions and see them as the most powerful communication, connection and relationship building tool we have. Yes, I know that’s a big statement and it’s true. Questions are the gateway to learning, to understanding, to discovery, to creation, to empathy, to compassion, and even to healing. While learning to be a questioner involves intention, it also requires science (skills), art (intuitive listening) and a genuine interest in people. All people and their lives. It also demands that we create an environment where people feel safe enough to share themselves with you – to allow you to see them.

Being seen is an odd thing in that we all have a deep need to be seen (and accepted), and at the same time, there’s a risk in being seen because it involves being vulnerable and exposed to possible judgment and even rejection if we’re truly and authentically seen. That’s one of Mom’s magic elements of loving others because she created that safe space using many of the other just love elements (especially accept them). 

When we talk about asking questions, listening, caring and being genuinely interested, we’re not talking about the information of people’s lives. We’re talking about the stories of their lives – often the good, the bad and the ugly, the uncertainties, fears and doubts, the wins and losses, the ups and downs. Essentially, the truth of their lives and their experiences of their lives. This is something that Mom was brilliant at – drawing out people’s stories. Mom was a story teller and a grand story listener. She loved hearing people’s stories and cherished them (the stories and the people). There’s a word we don’t hear or use much – cherished. Mom cherished people, including the time she spent with them, talked to them, listened to them, and encouraged them. 

Mom saw the people around her and she went out of her way to see them, to listen to them, to share with them, and to experience them. Are you living your life this same way? Are you committed enough and do you care enough to see people? Or are you in a hurry with full plates and full lives? Do you make time for people and their stories or are you moving so fast that you can only find time for a few bits of information?

Are you willing to slow down enough to enthusiastically seek out and listen to people’s stories? Are you willing to make time for stories and experiences? Are you willing to make a new or renewed commitment to seeing people, being genuinely interested in them and their stories? Perhaps most important, can you find the place inside yourself to cherish people, their stories and their lives. They just want to be seen. Mom saw them, and this seeing formed a connection that went beyond friendship and one that cannot even be defeated by death. Mom is gone, but life goes on and, most important, what we all know is that love goes on, and on, and on, and on. Will you just see them?

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  1. Bill Olevitch says:

    What great advice and no better experience allowing you to share your words of wisdom other than your experience with how your Mom lived her life. She was a great Women! Say hi to your Dad for me.

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