I have trouble with eye contact. Not during job interviews, not at home with my husband and kids. But definitely in public.
I remember in middle and high school avoiding eye contact with others was a way to deal with my shyness. The subtle yet significant fear that I would look someone in the eyes and they would ignore me. That I would not be seen. So I made the first move, which was to not even try.
A lot of times now, I find myself in a similar boat, except I’m not as much paralyzed by shyness as I am by the fact that I’m wrapped up in my own thoughts about my own life. What I need to do next, what I’m going to write about next, what I need to cook for dinner. The kids, the house, the list of things I need to do.
By doing this, I miss a lot of people, and a lot of potential interactions with other human beings.
In The Image of God
It’s easy for me to look at a baby, or a child, and to see the spark of The Creator inside them. Less so when it’s the person in front of me in line at a busy grocery store, who painstakingly writes out a check a la my grandmother. But instead of noticing that and remembering my grandma fondly, I am mostly irritated I chose this line, and will be delayed a couple of minutes and I have ice cream probably melting in the car from my first stop at Aldi.
The thing is, the lady in front of me, too, bears the mark and the spark of God inside her. And she, therefore, is deserving of a certain and irrevocable level of dignity and respect. So is the slow driver in front of me. The man carrying a 12 pack of beer as he walks home from the liquor store on the corner. The woman on her cell phone waiting for the bus.
Recently, I tried running errands and making an effort to truly look at people. And as I did, to think Image of God every time. There’s still some residual shyness lurking about, and it’s more difficult than I thought it would be. But when I did succeed, when I did pay attention enough to conciously acknowledge someone’s inherent worth. When our eyes met and we smiled. Woah. That was a powerful moment.
People long to be seen. We want to know we have worth.
A Blanket of Woven Saris
I recently hosted a party for a company that sells things made by women survivors of human trafficking. One of the many beautiful aspects of these companies is that women, who once were in a position where they felt they had no choice but to sell their bodies, now make a fair, living wage creating beautiful products for export. In their work, there is now dignity where there once was shame.
I received a handwoven blanket as a thank you for hosting the party. It is made of vintage saris, all beautifully braided together by a woman named Nasima. I know this because she signed the tag. I was able to go onto the website of the company, and to learn a bit about her story, and how her job gives her freedom, and respect.
The Creativity of God
When we, myself included, forget about the dignity within each and every human, bad things can happen. From the smallest to the oldest among us, we all bear the image of our Creator, and this is the primary source of our immense and intrinsict worth. Any time we mess with that, and start assigning importance or value based upon one’s size, or if they are wanted, or if they can help us get something we want, we forget Imago Dei. And we are all the poorer for it.
I am the first one to say it is my goal to look people in the eyes more. It’s a small step, to be sure, but if you take enough steps you end up at a different destination. I want to look at them and think Imago Dei. I want to offer a smile. I want them to know they are seen. I want to spend more time interacting with these image bearers and less time with the neverending lists inside my head.
As I do this, I hope to grow in awe and wonder at the diversity of souls on this earth and at the dignity of man and the creativity of God.