Not so many days ago I was involved in a rather innocent exchange with a gentlemen seated to my right at a banquet. His name was Dr. Clarence Williams. We were seated at the head table because I was invited to give greetings on behalf of the religious community and Dr. Williams was invited to give greetings on behalf of the medical community. Between mouthfuls of food – I never let conversation interfere with eating – he asked me where I was from. I shrugged and said, “Eatonton; you probably never heard of it.” His reply was quick and said that yes, in fact, he did know it quite well. “I taught at the High School for a few years before I went to the Medical College. My wife is from Eatonton. In fact I know some Deloaches.” I proceeded to name the DeLoaches in my family and he shook his head and said, “I remember Greg DeLoach, is he any kin?” “Well that’s me,” I blurted out.
It turns out he taught while I was in high school and although I never had him for a class, he remembered me attending a class next door. I wondered, and still do, what in the world did I do, say, or how did I behave that would cause him to remember me thirty years later. As I ponder this, I am not sure I want to know the answer. Still, I was touched that he reached across three decades to connect with me.
A couple of days later during Wednesday night dinner I am wandering from table to table (are you picking up that food is an underlying theme in my life?) and Sophia, age four, gave me a big hug and a bigger smile and asked, “Did you see me last week?” I honestly could not remember, but instead of engaging her in a nuanced dialogue around the limits of middle-age memory, I said, “You know, I think I did.” She responded with great delight, “Noooo….I wasn’t here!” Howls of laughter from parents and grandparents filled the fellowship hall.
There are times when I will casually greet someone and be asked, “Did you miss me? I have been out of town travelling.” Or, “I have been sick,” or something like that.
To be noticed…deep down we all want to know we mattered to someone else. While out of shyness, modesty or just simply introversion there are some who want to be as inconspicuous as possible, I think everyone wants to matter to someone else.
Church – wherever you may go – can be a big place. Church should never be so big, however, where we no longer matter to one another. Jesus noticed a solitary widow offering meager coins to a Temple treasury when others were busy with the wealth of others; he saw little children coming to be blessed when others saw distractions needing to be shooed away; he saw a woman stooped with infirmity when others only saw a breach in protocol.
One of the great missions of the church is to see: to see injustice; to see brokenness; to see loneliness; to see pain; to see joy; to see opportunity; to see others. We are here to pay attention to each other and to all others and take notice. It is a call to look in the eyes of Jesus and see the freedom that awaits because we do not have to be captive anymore. It is also a call to see with the eyes of Jesus those who are bound and fettered, lost and lonely, the least and the last, and set them free.
And when we see with the eyes of Jesus, or when we are seen by Jesus, the darkest powers no longer have a hold anymore.
“Don’t I know you?” is a holy claim and a sacred commission.
I am grateful for those who took notice of me and took me in.