We’ve been in Ann Arbor, Michigan, since last Thursday. Like most college towns, it has its own vibe…a wildly curious mix of the youthful search for identity and purpose with the eclectic collection of humanity drawn to the many elements surrounding the coming-to-adulthood process of the university setting. From the mass of humanity converging on the city for a huge art fair in its downtown streets to the unexpected discovery of a Dominican convent and the peaceful sisters living within, we’ve covered a lot of ground in a few days.

Our trip has been one full of humanity, experienced across every walk of life and around every corner. From the retreat we’ve been attending to our excursions into the community; we’ve witnessed wondrous variety in the direct conversations as well as the low profile people-watching available on such a trip. I’m reminded of how easy it is to live in the insular confines of the roads and pathways of our daily routines, oblivious to the human dramas happening just outside our own circus tents.

One of the exercises of this particular retreat called participants to spend five minutes looking into their spouses’ eyes. 300 seconds of solid eye contact. I’ve always loved my wife’s eyes but discovered that five minutes of uninterrupted eye contact is pretty intense. As my girls love to quote from one of the “Pitch Perfect” movies, “That was so much eye contact!”

Many years ago, a presentation by poet David Whyte introduced me to the greeting “namaste.” He used it in a poem he wrote describing an encounter he had with a an old Tibetan woman hiking in the Himalayas, and defined it as “I greet the God in you.” His story came back to me as I looked into Sally’s eyes, at first seeing their solid brown color break into hues of gold, yellow, green…was that siena? And then beyond to that special, inexplicable, brightness that reflects consciousness, awareness of self and beyond, moving on to the deepest pool, a place that I can only describe as soul…the connection to the Divine.

I see you.

Shortly after the “eye contact” exercise, I found myself thinking of Sally’s version of “namaste” when she greets our grandchildren. Moving her face close, she cups their faces with both hands and spends 30 seconds or more just looking into their eyes. They love it and respond by cupping her face with their little hands, looking deeply with their sparkling eyes. Have you ever noticed the shiny sparkle in a child’s eyes? That is innocence, awe, and wonder. That is the Divine.

I see you.

Earlier, walking into the convent not too far from our hotel, we were greeted by Sister Mary Esther, outfitted in full habit, eyes sparkling with her own awe and wonder. No more than 30 years old, she welcomed these uninvited guests into the sanctuary like we were old friends. I looked at her closely as she joyfully told us of the mission of the Dominican Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist, to teach in schools around the country. I wondered to myself, do my eyes sparkle like that when I speak of my purpose in the world? Do they shine when I greet strangers?

I see you.

Thinking back on Sally’s eyes, something else occurs to me. Our eyes are often described as “windows,” what if they’re also mirrors? Perhaps some of that sparkle we sometimes see is a reflection of the human being standing before us. Considering how Sally “lights up” when she sees our grandchildren, I’m certain of it.

How many people do we encounter every day? Do we notice the sparkle, that shiny something twinkling in their eyes? Are we sparkling back?

This morning, I’m watching as people move about the hotel lobby, eyes fixed on the task at hand. The eggs and waffles and luggage don’t seem to draw much of a twinkle. The glances to and fro looking for doors or plastic ware or coffee aren’t reflecting much. Some are tired. Some are distracted. Some are hesitant, introspective, distant. Most are dimmed.

A smile. A laugh. A greeting. Hmm, the shiny reflection emerges with the other person. I see you. The light, that inner self, the Divine, seems to emerge in response to the other.

Sally walks into the cafe and I stop. “Namaste” I think to myself as I smile broadly to greet her. Her eyes sparkle. Is that a twinkle in my eye or just a tear? “Good morning,” I say out loud as her browns, yellows, and greens, swirl and glitter. I see you…and God within you.

Showing 2 comments
  • Christy Buis

    Beautiful Phillip! You made my day.

  • Jarilyn Berry

    This is such a beautiful read. My gorgeous sister in law certainly does have that constant sparkle in her eye which is infectious and makes you feel at home and at ease 🤍

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