My love of all things “red-head” began very early in my life. Cabbage Patch dolls were all the rage. Christmas was approaching and my mother, true to her loving form, wanted to be sure that I not only received a Cabbage Patch doll, but the specific, red- headed Cabbage Patch doll that I had requested. If you were around for that craze, you know the battle she fought to get it. The struggle was real!
As I began my work with children 30 years ago, they began their process of teaching me the importance of making immediate, specific connections with people. Their wisdom has taught me that often, if we can begin by finding one thing to make another feel “seen”, the rest might come a little easier. And so, over the years when a new, nervous, red-headed child would enter my classroom, I would recall that beloved doll from my childhood, and with a wink and a smile say, “You know I favor red-heads, right?” So it would go with each child in my class. I would find one thing and most of the time, the rest came a bit easier.
A few Sundays ago, a new, nervous red-headed child came to The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbia (UUCC) with her family for the first time. We introduced ourselves and I confessed my love of all things red-head. She smiled a wide, shocked smile. We shared a few giggles, and then, it was time for service to begin. A few weeks later, she returned to UUCC with her family. I walked over to where they were sitting and before I could even say hello, the small red-head confidently grabbed her hair and said, “You remembered me.” I had “seen” her and it mattered in some small way. Children continue to be my greatest teachers.
Several weeks later, I woke up early in the morning to prepare for my workday and to kiss my husband goodbye before he left to begin his. I had just crawled out of bed, nary a comb through my hair, my teeth not yet brushed and my pajamas at least two days old. We stood in the kitchen and he pulled me in to kiss me goodbye. Before he did, he paused, looked at me and playfully but sincerely said, “You look real pretty.” I felt “seen.” He saw every flaw and strength, every perfection and imperfection, all of the things I say and don’t say and still he had “seen” me. In some small way, it mattered.
Author, political activist and lawyer, Charles W. Chesnutt once said, “We sometimes underestimate the influence of little things.” Whether welcoming new people into our lives or reaffirming those we have known seemingly forever, there is an endless stream of opportunity to share with others one little thing; to let them know that they are “seen” and to be given the gift of being “seen” in return. In this practice of small things, we open a door to the possibility of finding that the connections we share with others are far more apparent, abundant and abiding than we ever imagined. In celebrating the “influence of small things”, we take a first step toward building a foundation so that the rest may come a bit easier.
Within each of us, there is beauty and pain, there are flaws and strengths, things said and unsaid. May we offer each other the gift of “seeing” each other in all of our perfect imperfection, affirming in a sincere whisper the core truth: “You are beautiful.”