When we stop and slow down we begin to value those around us

“When you see, you cannot unsee. When you look, you can look away or overlook.”

Those were the words Christine Caine, an Australian activist, echoed throughout a cement building decorated with sparkling lights and 300 people. She was speaking on the topic of human trafficking, but her words transcend beyond that.

We float through life looking — looking at the woman at the front desk; looking at the teenager walking to school; looking at the older gentleman sitting on the side of the road. But we don’t stop and see. Because if we saw, we would see beyond the exterior. 

The definition of look is to “direct one’s gaze toward someone or something in a specified direction.” It’s solely to shift focus. But, to see is to “discern or deduce mentally after reflection or from information; understand.”

I first experienced this concept of seeing rather than looking when I was FaceTiming a friend. Laughter filled the gaps of small talk and all seemed well. Then tears flooded her eyes and discouragement spilled from her mouth. I was in the middle of eating dinner, but stopped and saw the heartbreak.  

Another experience included an encounter with a close friend. I spoke to him earlier that day at work and smiles were exchanged. Then a conversation led to shaking hands and worried eyes. Texts piled up on my phone screen, but I ignored them and instead saw his cry for help.

It has become increasingly easy to overlook the hardships of others because of the busy lives we all seem to live. Our tasks take priority, and we push empathy to the side.

A Forbes study shows that the average adult spends “as much as 12 hours a day in front of TVs and computers.” A news release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows we spend 8.5 hours working on weekdays and 5.4 hours working on weekends. Another study shows college students spend two to three hours on homework for every hour they spend in class.

We are consumed by the business that engulfs our lives. Because of this, we glance at others and their situations but don’t take the time to stop and see –– to understand; to feel; to sympathize.  

But, when we allow business to dictate our lives, we are sacrificing our innate nature for relationships. When we do so, we are left feeling isolated, alone and unseen. 

So, how do we stop looking and how do we start seeing? We start by understanding the value of others.

If we place our busy schedules before those around us, we will never see. We will never see because we are choosing to place more value in our to-do lists rather than the individuals that make up our lives. It’s like wearing a pair of goggles that create a distorted view of what’s truly important. 

When we choose to remove those goggles, we will be captivated by the value of those around us. And when we do so, we will begin to notice the small things that allude to the need for genuine connection.

To look is to merely glance, but to see is to gaze at the world around us. When we see, we won’t be able to look away, but rather, we will be made more aware.