Let this be your resolution in 2015… “I SEE People”

I spend several hours each week helping my young neighbors improve their English. Last week one of the girls brought a library book that she had chosen for a book report.

She chose the book because it was short – not because of the content. It was a book about an all black baseball team  in the 1940’s in America. (A land and a time she can’t relate to.)  …So as she read the book I had a lot of explaining to do.

And that opened the door to talk about how racism and perceptions impact individuals and our world.

When she left, I thought more about the lives that are impacted:

  1. Being so invisible that people look right through you as if you aren’t there.
  2. Having people make assumptions about your knowledge and ability to contribute based on your job function.
  3. Having the same qualifications as someone else but legally being offered significantly lower wages because of your skin color or surname.
  4. Not being allowed to sit in certain public places because of your job function.

These are all situations I’ve considered partially because of where we are from and partially because of where we live now. …Situations that I’ve rarely been on the receiving end of.

However, on a recent vacation I gained a greater understanding:

We were traveling in a country filled with many poor people that have struggled harder than usual over the past few years. As we approached and departed from every tourist site merchants, just like in every other country in the world, surrounded us.

The difference here was that these merchants were desperate and more aggressive than usual. They wouldn’t just walk beside you as you exited an attraction, they would surround you, walk in front of you, shove their items at you and all speak at once.

Our guide told us not to engage with them in any way. At first we all struggled to do that, after all they were human beings. However, we quickly realized that acknowledging them instantly increased the volume of people we were surrounded with and the intensity of their efforts.

We felt dehumanized ~ like we were simply walking dollar signs, not people.

We felt harassed and the more often it happened the more defensive and angry I felt.

And then I felt guilty…

  • Guilty for having what these people needed.
  • Guilty for not knowing how to engage with them in a way that respected their humanity.
  • Guilty for being defensive and angry.

And then sad, realizing that someone needed to break the cycle of dehumanizing the other, and not knowing how to do so in this situation.

Towards the end of the vacation, each one of those encounters caused enough of an adrenalin surge that it took some time to recover.

As I struggled to recover from one of those interactions, I found a new perspective and reasons to be thankful for the experiences.

  • Thankful to have a tiny taste of what these merchants must feel like as people walk by them daily and don’t SEE them as individuals.
  • Thankful that we don’t have to fight so hard to survive.
  • Thankful for the reminder that we have so much that we take it for granted.

And although I still wish we had figured out how to engage with them in a meaningful way, the experience has encouraged me to be more intentional about engaging with people where I live that are usually unseen.

Look deeper and see people for who they really are

 

Here’s the thing. You don’t have to live in the 1940’s or vacation in the Middle East to practice seeing and valuing others.

As titled leaders Do you judge your employee’s ability to contribute by their current job function or by their knowledge and their potential? (I can tell you endless stories about people without titles that had the answers companies were looking for.)

As parents Are you teaching your children to value others by their job function, their skin color, their looks, or simply because they are human beings? (Your child could become a wise and compassionate leader that creates opportunities for thousands one day…)

As neighbors – Who lives near you that is not really SEEN? (When we choose to open our eyes, to learn their names, to intentionally greet them, to give of ourselves we change their world and our own.)


 Want more about how this topic relates to your organization?

President, Giana Consulting

Chery Gegelman is an adventurer that loves to learn. …Deep conversations, books, travel, and daily living are all food for growth.

As a speaker, facilitator and workshop leader she creates energizing environments that reflect God’s grace, tear down walls, help people to consider new perspectives, and inspire change.

Chery is the Founder of Giana Consulting and Conversation Safari’s, listed as a Great Leadership Speaker by Inc., writes a recognized leadership blog and has co-authored two leadership books.

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8 thoughts on “Let this be your resolution in 2015… “I SEE People”

  1. Have so many thoughts on this excellent piece!

    As Teachers: Who see test scores instead of a child with potential and real successes.

    Also…

    I’m reminded of when I was in college in an inner city school where there were more than a few homeless people. Most of us look past homeless thinking that if we don’t make eye contact, they won’t ask us for money. We usher our children by them as if they don’t exist. Early in my college experience I went to a lecture that asked us to look at the homeless as the human beings they are. Make eye contact, smile, offer to buy them a meal if you’re worried about where they’ll spend the dollar you hand them. Many homeless start to go crazy literally because they start to think they’re invisible. People stop seeing them. How can we ignore someone’s humanity regardless of their circumstances?

    Again – Fantastic piece!

    Thanks,

    Alli

  2. What a beautiful post. We all want to be seen for who we truly are. That takes effort. The effort is worth it. What an inspiring goal for the new year… work harder to see people and let them see you for you truly are. Amen.