If You See Something

If you see something, say something. 

I associate this phrase with subway cars and airports and an attitude of vigilance. Keep your eyes peeled and antennae up for the threatening abstract other who is out to hurt. It feels like a prompt to reach inside for the part of us that is on guard, suspicious, wary of the outside world and who and what inhabits it.

It is essential to have this part and this sensibility. Assessment of safety is important, and there is plenty out there to be on your toes about. That said, I’ve had several experiences over the last week that have reminded me of what can flow from turning this prompt on its head and being on the lookout for the goodnesses out there.

I sat in the parking lot, waiting for the library (and its bathroom!) to open and chatting with my eldest son. “Last week I was feeling so great, Mom, like the world is this incredible colorful place, and I am so psyched to be living in it. And then this [graduate school exam] week, I’ve got my head down, and I’ve lost a sense of all of that.” “Bummer,” I said, “the grindy bits can drain the color out of things.” I offered dinner, more conversation, and then cut myself off. “Hold on a second, J, check out what is right outside my window.” I texted him a picture of a pair of gorgeous blue jays poking around in the mulch, looking around occasionally, and generally doing their thing. “Crazy beautiful. Just a glimpse of what’s puttering around out here and will continue to on the other side of exams.”

A couple of days later, I drove my youngest son to school, and we pulled up to a stop light. The woman next to us had her music turned up, and we’ve both got our windows open. My son and I nodded our heads in rhythm and wordless appreciation. I looked over, and we – the other driver and I – caught each other’s eye. She rolled down her window further, and I did the same – “You’ve got to start the day somehow,” she smiles. “Sure do, and that’s a pretty fantastic way to do so,” I smile back, “thanks for sharing!”

Keep in mind that I have been known to complain about people who “noise pollute” - broadcasting their music, their podcast, their conversation through speakers rather than earbuds. It might have been the fact that the sun was out and while sleepy, I wasn’t cranky. Could be that the slight smile my son and I shared opened my heart a tad. Maybe there was something palpably generous in the way my fellow commuter offered up her private experience to the proximate public. For whatever reason, I meant it when I said “thank you” because it really did feel like she floated my son and me an unexpected gift. 

There is all sorts of beauty, generosity, and possibility of human connection out there in the same world that there is plenty to feel threatened by. It can be hard to be open to and on the lookout for the former while maintaining an awareness and/or experience of the latter. But we can try, on our behalf and behalf of others, in small yet impactful ways. Maybe in the next few days, each of us can find a chance to open a window, catch an eye, share a smile, or spot a flash of color. And if you see something, maybe say something to someone who missed it.

❤️ Jill 

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