FIT@50 / Week 91: I See You
Our kids are well, kids. They rattle on when they should just hush and shut down when they should shine. But alas, they are kids. I’d say for the most part they are pretty socially capable. Relatively speaking of course. After all, the boys are 7, 9, and 10.
They’ve all noticed I enjoy talking with people. The 13-year-old calls me mister sociable, and then the 7-year-old stumbles over the pronunciation of “sociable” to ask what it means. She smacks of early teenage condescension, “It means he talks a lot.”
I’m happy they take notice.
What Leah and I teach the kids is to see people. I’m sure you understand what I mean, but to children, they are working to understand the difference between, “Watch out for that person,” and “Watch that person.”
I don’t talk to people just to fill space or hear myself pontificate over the weather or current state of affairs. I enjoy seeing them. It may be just a smile and hello, or a chat about travelling circuses. The subject matter doesn’t matter. It’s about making a human contact.
What does matter is making a human connection. It starts because my head is always up and my eyes are always looking forward. First is the cop in me. I visually scan everything. The second part is the benefit of making eye contact. It never fails to connect with someone else.
Once that visual connection is made, words naturally flow after a smile. And that is the simple art of being mister sociable.
There are folks who’ve not been seen their entire lives. Others who feel the weight of no longer being seen. Either side of the coin, it’s a horrible feeling to traverse this life invisible to everyone around you.
Since I retired from a very public position, and moved to an entirely different state, I could easily see how becoming one in a sea of anonymous anybodies could negatively affect you.
Going from instantly recognized, to one of the crowd in a big city was odd for me. I was used to the uniform serving as an instant ticket to enter into any conversation. Now, no one had a clue who I was or what I once did.
What I discovered was the most critical point of being social. It wasn’t the uniform, or the job, or the familiar locale. It was having my head up, eyes open and being receptive. I’ve always looked to see others. I cherish making the connection and the follow-up with a few encouraging words.
I’m glad our kids see this. We want them to understand the value of being seen, but more importantly, seeing others. Everyone has value. Their exterior may be presented in faded jeans and a flannel shirt, or an expensive business suit, but it’s what in and behind the eyes that matter most.
Every holiday season is a challenge for me to minimize the seasonal depression that has plagued me since my teens. This year is no different, but without the facade of a uniform and shield, I’ve enjoyed more than ever being wide-eyed and sociable as me, and not the police chief.
Another wonderful benefit of seeing is also being seen. Give it a try. Don’t just look at someone. Look into someone. Each has a story to share. Maybe they’ll bless you with it if you hang around just a bit.
I See You.