Tuesday, October 15, 2002

It's in the Eyes

Yesterday afternoon I had about 45 minutes to do half a dozen things. I ran to the grocery, to the post office (yes, now I know that it was Columbus Day and there was no mail service), and to the pet store. Last stop before picking Cameron up from school: Kinkos.I had 8 minutes to drop off a manuscript to be copied. When I shuffled in, wearing my sweatpants, Christ the King school sweatshirt, and Nike sandals, the place was filled with businesspeople in businesswear. I tried to wait patiently, watching the second hand tick away the seconds on the clock on the wall.

Seven minutes later, I was the next person in line. As I stood biting the inside of my lip and picturing Cameron waiting like a forelorn waif on the empty school sidewalk, a young man with dredlocks in baggy, low-rider pants walked in and went up to the counter. He stood straight as an arrow, right in front of me. The harried clerks continued waiting on their respective customers. Then one employee turned and looked at the fellow. I noticed her eyes--big, blue, wide-open, *tender* eyes. She stepped up to him and said softly, "How can I help you?"

The young man cleared his throat and asked whether they were hiring. I was touched by the practiced way he held his head up; his gaze, his stiff shoulders. I could feel how tense he was.

The woman was a model of gentleness. She spoke with him as though he were the most important person in the room. She told him what their hiring policies were. She explained the jobs she had open. She gave him the name of the HR manager, along with his phone number and the hours he worked. She wrote the information down on the back of one of her own business cards. She went above and beyond just normal people doing normal jobs. She was loving this kid, showing him that his questions were important, that she honored his decision--and his courage--in coming in to ask about a job. Those eyes said it all. She valued him and he was welcome. What a nice gift for a kid who probably gets more scowls than smiles in our world.

The clock on the wall? I forgot about it and thanked God for that woman's example to me. It's not about the seconds you spend with someone. It's about looking at them tenderly--with love, with intention, with kindness. It's about being tenderly present with people in a way that lets them know you see them and shows them you're glad they're there.

And somehow, miraculously, I had a heart realignment and I still made it to school in time to see Cameron walk out the front door with his friends. Thanks, God.

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