A scene from last week’s trip East has really stayed with me. We were at the Dallas airport waiting for our flight to board. I had noticed a young family sitting nearby at the gate: a mother and father with two young children – a baby boy and a girl of about four. The little girl had a doll on her lap and was feeding it a pretend bottle of milk. Then she got up and made a loop around the bank of chairs.
She stopped in front of the woman sitting right across from me, a spiced up grandmother type with a big pile of blonde hair. “You’re a pretty girl,” I heard the woman say in a thick Texan accent. “And your dolly is pretty, too. Your dolly has pretty blue ahs.” The little girl looked down at her doll, then at the woman. “You have blue eyes, too. Just like my baby.” The woman laughed. “Yes, yes ah do!”
“Where did you get your blue eyes?” asked the girl. (I thought I detected a hint of suspicion in her tone, but it had been a long day.) The woman didn’t hesitate. “God gave them to me.” “Why?” asked the girl. “Because they were a gift,” said the woman. “A gift from God.” “But why?” insisted the girl. “Because God has a lot of eyes?”
The woman smiled and said that, yes, God does have a lot of eyes. Then the girl was back with her family, her doll again on her lap.
I struggled to imagine what this young girl might be thinking. How could any of us conceive of something as vast and unearthly as God? A generous fellow with an overflowing box of eyeballs seems likely to be as accurate as anything.
Then I thought: if God has so many eyes, why are there so many people who feel (and are) unseen? I’ve heard some religious people say that God is Love, and there sure are plenty of people who feel unloved. As I’ve said before, I’m not a believer. But I could start to understand a God who has a lot of eyes, maybe even was All Eyes. A God who bears witness.
With all of this on my mind, I was on the lookout today for someone who was kind of flying under the radar. There was a lot of hustle and bustle on Hawthorne, where I found myself this afternoon. It was a beautiful day for skateboarders, dog walkers, panhandlers, ramblers, dawdlers and business people on lunch break. I passed by a cafe and saw a woman sitting alone. She was just getting up to pay and our eyes met briefly.
I decided to approach her when she came out but I hesitated and in a flash she was out the door and headed around the corner. I followed and caught up with her partway up the block. “Excuse me! Can I talk with you for a minute?” I asked. “Sure,” she said, slowing down and giving me a curious smile.
“I’m following you, and this is gonna sound kind of crazy!” She gave a little shrug, like maybe strange things had happened to her before. I told her that I was giving away a gift and had been looking for the right person. “Here, I want you to have this.” I gave her the hundred.
“Wow, thank you so much!” She put the bill in her pocket and reached out to give me a hug. She said her name was Stephanie.
I told her how my Mom had died last year and she said she was sorry. I told her my Mom had left me a gift and I was passing it along a little at a time. “That’s so awesome!” Stephanie said.
She said she would normally be at work but had decided to take the day off to visit a sick friend in Corvallis. Her friend is really struggling and is very strapped for cash. “I’m definitely going to pass some of this on to her,” she decided. Her eyes welled up with tears and that’s when I noticed: they were the most amazing color.
A friend had just shown me pictures of herself snorkeling in Mexico. The water was crystal clear for down to 50 feet, but from the shore it was as blue as a sapphire. The same blue as Stephanie’s eyes.
“Your eyes are so beautiful!” I told her. “Thanks,” she said. “I got them from my father.” Then she said that her eyes used to be a different blue, but in 2007 she spent some months in Tanzania and they changed color.
“I know it isn’t logical,” I said, “But it seems like everything would look different through eyes that color.” For some reason, this actually seemed perfectly logical. I imagined seeing everything as if through that blue water in Mexico.
Stephanie just smiled. She told me how she had been teaching in a high school in Tanzania and how much she loved the people there. When she graduated from college she couldn’t find work so she got certified as a nursing assistant. She started working in a care center and then began helping organize the care providers to improve their pay and working conditions.
We had a lot to talk about. She was very patient as I tried to capture the color of her eyes in a photo. I knew it would be impossible, but I tried anyway.
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