"I remember you," says the salesperson at the Hallmark store.
My brother collects Hallmark ornaments. He pours over the Hallmark Dream Book the way I used to scrutinize Eaton's Christmas catalogue. After a couple of weeks, he makes his selections. We note the items on the appropriate form and carry it to Victoria's last remaining Hallmark store.
The expedition always resembles an adventure. The rituals that come from his obsessive-compulsive disorder can introduce an element of unpredictability to his movements. Delicate figures perch in glass display cases. My brother walks with eyes down, head bent over, shoulders caved, the result of years of trying to avoid the stares and comments that began when he was five years old. And he carries the genetic girth of the males in our family. Clad in a black and orange Hooters T-shirt that has become his favourite since a worker redeemed it from some Thrift Store, my brother moves like a veritable bull in a china shop.
I feel like John the Baptist as I try to prepare the way.
On this day, we arrive at the counter without incident or need to utilize any excessive rituals for safety.
We submit the list and confirm contact information. Then the salesperson looks up, smiles and says to my brother, "I remember you."
My brother's face explodes with a radiant smile.
"You like Star Wars," she says.
"And Star Trek," he adds, the wattage on his smile dials up another notch.
"Do you watch the movies?" she asks. I think, simultaneously, "Does the Pope go to church?" and "Danger. Danger. She might have just breached a door to a 30-minute conversation."
But today is a good day. He heeds my tap on the shoulder, signalling it is time to go.
This encounter highlights my brother's week.
How profound it is to have someone see you!
For my brother, it goes beyond the acknowledgement of his size and customer status to a recognition of something he values, an interest that captivates him.
The art of perception requires ongoing discipline and one that can quickly fade through familiarity.
Friends, partners, and lovers can bond, in the beginning, over shared interests in music, art, or motorcycles. But life rubs against us.
Surveys continue to document the rise of loneliness and despair in young and old. People feel alone as they grapple with the struggles of life. Their wrestling shielded, deep feelings of having nothing of value to offer invisible.
At the core, perception of the other is a relationship issue. Many practices that sustain relationships with friends and lovers are similar to those that nurture a relationship with God and vice versa.
Some friends live with the unbreakable rule of a Friday Night Date Night. Relationships only maintain their flexibility and vitality with time together. Christians have set aside Sunday morning for such an intentional focus during recent centuries.
Other people adopt the daily ritual, before bed, of catching up on moments of gratitude and challenge during the day. The conversation does not involve problem-solving, just a simple naming of moments of joy and struggle. Many across the religious spectrum pray.
Some conversations, often less ritualized, introduce an aspect of inquiry and wonder. Scanning the news in the morning, watching a movie or reading a book can provoke comments like "What do you think of that?" or "I don't know what to make of this situation." Engaging something outside the relationship can act like sand in an oyster. Christians traditionally rely upon such media as a sermon, devotional reading or prayerful journaling as a way to practice openness to something outside the relationship from which wisdom may germinate.
The importance and power of seeing and being seen have always been vital, never more so than during this time.
The power of perception is that even a casual comment can result in warmth and light.
Photo by Omar Lopez on Unsplash
For conversation or your journal
When was the last time you felt that someone really saw you for who you are?
What did that feel like?