I caught a bit of one of my most favorite movies last night–The Blind Side. There’s about 8 million layers to this story, on the screen and in real life, and so far, every time I’ve watched it, I’ve caught something new to mull about in my head.
Last night the scene where Michael asks Leigh Anne to help him get his driver’s license just wrecked me.
Leigh Anne’s busy working on a project, and Michael comes up to her home interior design workshop and kinda bashfully interrupts, “Mrs. Tuohy…?”
She stops him cold and says, “Mrs. Tuohy,” is her mama and to please not call her that. He grins, and tries again, asking if she’ll help him get his driver’s license. Now, Leigh Anne’s pretty caught up in the design task in front of her and so she pushes him off with a hasty and somewhat irritated, “Michael, why do you want a driver’s license when you don’t even have a car?”
And then more silence.
And finally Leigh Anne looks up from her fabric and drawings and says, “Ok, Michael. Why do you want a driver’s license?”
“Something to carry around,” he says, so quietly and humbly that if it doesn’t tear at your heartstrings you maybe have ice in your veins. “Something with my name on it,” he adds, again, so quietly and humbly.
“Holy hell,” I said to my friend watching with me, “He just wants to be seen!”
She nodded her head, “Yup.”
Something with my name on it. To carry around.
To be seen.
I cannot get his words out of my head this morning, “Something with my name on it.”
Y’all, being seen is everything. And this morning I’m thinking about how not being seen, how feeling overlooked, inconsequential, left out, discounted, excluded, can wreak such utter havoc on our lives and our communities.
Feeling unseen breeds a sort of anger and discontent that can destroy a person–or lead them to destroy others. Because hurt people hurt other people, and this has been true since Cain knocked off his brother Abel in Genesis.
Feeling unseen encourages the lie that some lives matter more than others, that the color of our skin, or who we choose to love, or how we vote, or what our bank balance is, or where we live defines us as worthy or not.
Feeling unseen is a cause and byproduct both of bullying, especially among our children. A bully feels her only platform is to ridicule and strike out at others, meanwhile those who receive her sad rage feel themselves as if they must not matter much to anyone.
Feeling unseen, at its worst, leads to extremism, to radicals of all sorts, as those who have, rightly or not, felt as if their voice has no place to be heard force others to hear them–usually violently and at human cost.
Feeling unseen, sometimes, is simply and terribly a perfect host for our own depression, anxiety, and/or self-harm.
Because the truth is we all, no matter who we are or where we have been or how we behave, just want our name on something.
Y’all, we are in some dark times in this country. This has been true before, and it is true now, and it seems to me that at heart of our discord, at the very center of our screaming and shouting and name-calling and degrading, is that so many of us, in one way or another, do not feel seen. Do not feel we matter. Do not feel counted.
My faith tradition holds powerful stories about this: A lost sheep being relentlessly searched for when 99 are perfectly safe. A reckless and misbehaving brother welcomed home from his stumble into depravity with great pomp and circumstance. A woman of questionable background and decisions who also likely struggled to stay healthy mentally pulled next to Jesus as one of his closest confidants. A tiny little tax collector, despised by just about everyone, told he’d be hosting that same Jesus for dinner.
The unseen–seen. The outcast–brought in. The ne’er-do-wells made whole.
Find someone who needs seeing, y’all, and let them know they matter.
Trust that you, too, are seen, even if there’s no quantitative proof as such.
Work to see those you’d rather not.
Allow yourself to be seen even when you’d rather not.
This might not, on its own, completely change the game. But it could be the tipping point.