Saturday, April 27, 2013

People Watching

I am sitting at a coffee shop, people watching. This is one of my favorite activities to partake of on a lazy Saturday, and I like to think about these people whose lives will only ever intersect with mine in this brief moment of time, yet even in a glimpse, we can still impact each other's lives, through the thoughts that arise in one on account of the other.

We may not ever make eye contact, may never exchange a smile or nod, yet still we have impacted each other. That man standing at the crosswalk is wearing a jersey from the Sacramento Kings, which is the basketball team that I followed fervently when I was about thirteen years old. This is a rare thing in a town dominated by Lakers fans. I knew every player and their jersey number, and often details about them such as their country of origin or how old they were or if they had any children. That was ten years ago, but I saw the number 4 on the jersey and instantly knew which player it denoted, and remembered that that player no longer plays for the Kings. The jersey was a retro jersey, which they released around the time I was a fan. This small detail, a number 4 on a jersey that doesn't belong in this town, brought back a wealth of memories from my childhood. I saw #4 play at Arco Arena in Sacramento, back in the day.

It is a coffee shop where super hipsters with waxed mustaches meet grandmothers in sweatpants. This really is a wonderful place to people watch, because there are so many different kinds of people. And even if the locals share similar qualities (long tie dyed skirts, black rimmed glasses, fedoras), they are still different and unique, each one. The saying “we are all connected” has lost much of its meaning, yet sitting here looking into the sun with all these people walking by, a little of the richness of these words pieced together is regained. As I sit here and people watch, and record these thoughts on my computer, ideas spring forth that I never imagined I would have today. These people who I will never know bring the possibilities out of forgotten places in my heart. They are living their lives and they might never even see little old me sitting here, now with an empty coffee mug, yet they have still impacted me. We often don't think about the fact that our mere presence impacts the people around us, from what we wear, to the way we carry ourselves, to the coffee mugs or bags that we hold in our hands. It is a special moment when we stop to notice those around us. I am brought out of my own head, the space I occupy far too much of the time, into a world with such beautiful people.

It's truly a beautiful day, and not just because of the sunshine. The people that walk by make this a beautiful world, and if only they knew it. Maybe some of them do, but I would guess that most of them don't. One of my favorite things to do that I just started doing this year is stopping and realizing that every person around me was created in the image of God. When I look at all the different people around me, many of whom are so, so different from me, this is truly an astounding thought, but it helps me to realize that the soul of each person is beautiful and unique and loved, and this makes me feel like it might not be so impossible to love everyone. If we stopped and recognized the beauty of each other, there wouldn't be a need for wars or poverty. We would stop being selfish and we would give up our possessions and time. We wouldn't need them anymore. And while I know such a world of peace probably won't be achieved in my lifetime, that doesn't mean I can't work for it now. These moments remind me that I need to work for it now, because some of the people walking by don't know how much they are loved.

I know this vision sounds far too perfect, and maybe people will think I am not noticing all the imperfections of people around me. For we do fight and wage war and hoard stuff and allow diseases of the heart to ravage each other. I certainly don't live every moment so peacefully. Sometimes I contribute to the discord and hate, and sometimes I do it without even realizing that my selfish actions hurt children halfway around the world.

But moments like these are still important and still worth having. They shape me and hopefully turn me into a better person who will try to be less selfish and more giving. I can hold the feelings that took shape in this moment in my heart and change my life accordingly. I can be more patient and more loving and stop thinking so much about myself and my own needs. I can tell some of these people, I see you, and I love you, yet it is not my own love, but the love of God within me. I hope and pray that the beautiful ideas of love and peace will be true for everyone someday, without a shadow of vanity or selfishness or darkness. And I want to share these thoughts with you not to make myself seem noble (for I fight against my own vanity and selfishness and darkness with every word). I share them so that you might stop and have your own moment where you see the people around you and see that they are lovely.

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