It is a simple but powerful statement. It acknowledges somebody’s existence…their worth. I see you.
How much conflict, social strife, or personal dysfunction is a result of people feeling like they are not seen…not heard?
Last week I worked with 5th graders. We started the day with a general assembly to introduce A Peace of My Mind. The exhibit was installed and as the day went on, I walked each classroom through the display to explore the stories and answer questions.
One girl…we’ll call her Emily…seemed uncertain as she raised her hand. She danced around her question a bit.
“Have you ever interviewed someone from a family…with a mom and a dad…except they are the same thing?”
I thought for a second. “Do you mean a gay or lesbian couple?”
“Yes,” Emily replied.
I told her that I had. There were several LGBTQ people who I had interviewed, in fact in my new book there was a woman named Laura Patey who was married to another woman. Together they raised two boys who they adopted out of the foster care system.
“OK. Thanks,” Emily said, and as I got ready to move on to the next question, she added, “Because I have two moms.”
I learned later that Emily had struggled with the situation…that some kids had teased her. And, I learned, this was the first time Emily had said anything about it in front of the entire class.
As I work with young people, it is interesting how many times I overhear them standing in front of a portrait saying with some enthusiasm to a friend, “She’s like me…” She wears hijab…he likes soccer…she is a rabbi…that family has two moms.
I see you.
As we walked down the hall, I pointed out Laura Patey’s story to Emily and handed her the book. To read more of Laura’s story see the blog post about her, but these words from Laura seemed particularly relevant to the day:
“Working through the pain of kids who have experienced disrupted connections and teaching them that they are valued and loved is a critical element of what we do.”
“We discovered that kids pick on kids for any number of reasons. We armed our kids for the fact that not everyone was going to value our family. That was okay as long as we surrounded ourselves with people who did: our church community, our friends, and others. We practiced making statements. When somebody would make fun of Jesse on the football field and say something about his two moms, he would say, ‘Pick a real issue.’ That was the line. ‘Pick a real issue.’”
Emily asked me that question the morning after our book release party. And I had the honor of saying to her, “I see you.”