Several years ago, in a leadership group exercise with a fabulous group of people from around the world, we were paired for an experience in presence. I will never forget it.
We faced each other in complete silence and looked directly into one another’s eyes, not to break our gaze, for a number of minutes.
It was one of the most moving experiences I have done under the leadership umbrella. Truly beginning to see another who felt just as much vulnerability as I did in letting myself be seen. I continue to treasure those moments and the connection that went far below the surface.
Or seeing people with whom I have danced, eyes connected in silent movement.
Or the woman the other day in front of me at the grocery store. I tried to discern what her eyes meant behind the mask.
It was an interesting exchange with my eyes watching the cashier’s eyes watching the woman’s eyes that were watching our eyes and sending all kinds of signals to both of us. It felt like definite “do not cross my boundaries” and “do not judge me” and also discomfort in the moment. I have reflected on it since, wondering if she saw my eyes trying to convey caring.
Children are the best at looking into another’s eyes because they have not created as many filters. They, in turn, want to be seen.
Stories tell how someone is smiling but not really because they are not smiling with their eyes. It’s a surface smile attempt, perhaps polite.
We have all likely watched hundreds of times as two people glance at one another and their eyes tell much of the story, of two children in a classroom or perhaps siblings rolling their eyes and thinking no one sees.
The eyes speak if we take the time to listen and increase our ability to read them when words are absent or muffled behind the coverings.
All we have when we are in some places right now are our eyes. We do not have the luxury of the full facial expression.
So we have an opportunity to dip into a measure of presence in and of one another more deeply than often happens
To suspend clock time and the to do list time and the pay attention to me time and the have to be somewhere time… to stop.
To step into Kairos time, even if for a few moments that are off the clock, where the clock isn’t even noticed, and look into another’s eyes and try our very best to see them.
I think of the hundreds of children with whom I have had the joy of being over the years, of seeing the whole face expressions, not having to wonder.
During these months, my greatest hope is that in all spaces where children are only able to show us their eyes, especially when talking is not allowed, that time is taken to truly see them…because the truth is, it takes more time.
To not only see them but also hear them through their eyes.
Perhaps the most important thing we can do is to honor them fully in this way.
Children are looking to us as we all navigate these times to guide and support them. May we give them the gift of however many moments it takes for them to know that our eyes see theirs and in return, they can trust by looking into ours that our presence is certain.
NOT FORGETTING ADULTS
We can do this for one another in the adult world, too.
It matters. It is possible. It is likely that looking into someone’s eyes and holding them longer than we might have in a different time will change that moment, day or life.