I watch people.
I don’t know if you’d consider that a bad habit or not. It’s not a matter of peeping through windows. I’m not trying to catch them at anything.
About half way through that last sentence I thought, “No I’m trying to catch them at EVERYTHING!” I wonder what I meant by that?
It began years ago. My first love and my first training are as an actor. I love performing, especially in front of a live audience. Words have always fascinated me, spoken words and written words (hence this blog). They have textures and temperatures. Some words are written but are meant to be spoken. For years Shakespeare baffled me. It wasn’t the sheer tonnage of words, although the style of his time was not to be sparing. They swirled and swooped and were beautiful simply in themselves but what the hell did they all MEAN? What was the story that they told? Once I saw the plays performed so much became clearer to me. I wanted to be up THERE, I wanted to give those words form and bring their stories to life.
As a student I was taught that all an actor requires is a passion and a plank. Something you cared deeply about and a place to tell your story. Diving deeper into my studies I found that so much more was needed to create “real” living characters on the stage. I could not walk with the bounce and energetic stride of a young adult for a character of middle age. The moment I took that step I plunged a knife into the heart of the character. So I had to learn to move, to stand, to inhabit someone else’s life within my own body. And that’s when I began to watch people.
The next time you find yourself with some free time in a crowded space try this. Just sit and watch. See what their bodies tell you about their lives, their hopes, and their dreams. It’s in how they dress, and how it fits, and how they move within it. Watch how they stand and what their hands do. Don’t watch their faces too much. We lie with our faces. Only the best liars can make their bodies speak other than the truth.
So what does any of this have to do with faith? Because once you begin to watch you will begin to see the humanity that lives around you. The uncertainty, the joy, the doubt and the delight. I believe this brings you closer to how Jesus saw the world. It’s too easy to turn your eyes inward and not really see the world around you (count them. Count the people who walk by who look but do not see, who hear but do not listen). How often did Jesus look at someone and feel himself moved by what he saw? Why does it happen so rarely to most of us? Because we do not see. Our eyes look at things that crowd around us, interfere with our passage to our goals. When we watch we are forced to see the people-ness of the people around us.
Beware. What you will see can become a burden on your heart. Make sure you watch all the people. Take special time for children. They will be the first to notice the difference in your eyes. We have forgotten how to see like a child but they always will notice an adult who actually sees them. Immerse yourself in their joy. The world is a new place to them. Everything is exciting and interesting. Revel in their vision. It will refresh, awaken and energize you.
As people of faith we are called to serve our community. By watching our community we will better know these people. In better knowing them we can better serve them. In better serving them we can change the way they think and feel. At the end we change what is within and that will change what is without.
And we will see it.