This past weekend, I adventured to Charlottesville for the day. I have the sweetest best friend in the world who wouldn't let me feel sad about a less exciting and more adult birthday, so she drove from Harrisonburg to meet me and make my day fun. Crystal, here's your shoutout-- you are such a gem!
We walked, we talked, we shopped, we wandered aimlessly around a crowded farmers market. We wandered up a side street where a man was playing the harmonica, hoping for change from people passing by like we were.
I glanced his way for a second, but carried on in our conversation as we kept going. As we were walking away, a toddler walked right up to this man and just stared at him in wonder. We stopped talking as we watched him, and we stopped to see how things would play out.
This little boy was mesmerized. Crystal and I stopped to watch, smiling and laughing as we watched this little boy and his huge curiosity. We could see this adorable little guy had special needs, but hey, any man sitting on a bucket at toddler eye level playing music into a mic is worth stopping for, am I right?
This man has been there before, I've seen him there on random weekend trips. That might be his spot. I'm sure he has gotten every kind of response in the book from passersby, every jeer, every taunt, every judging glance, maybe a few coins, probably mostly quickened steps as people rush by. His skin was worn and reddened by what I can only guess was hours and hours spent in the sun, sitting on that bucket, playing familiar tunes and hoping to go home with a little more money than he came with.
Whatever that man's story, whatever his past, whatever his present, it didn't matter to that little boy. He got right up close and just looked at him. He didn't make a sound, he didn't laugh or cry or speak, he just looked. So curious, so full of wonder.
Nobody tried to pull the kid away and try to tell him he was invading rules about personal space. Nobody tried to distract him away from the man. We just watched this boy as he watched that man.
He moved a few steps around the side of the man, stopped there for a second to watch, then moved a few more steps so he was standing directly behind the man. Long, thick dreads hung down his back, and the boy just stared at them for a moment before he took more steps again, staring intently all the while.
The boy moved on soon after, off to spin a pinwheel in the wind and see the toys behind the store window.
Crystal and I just laughed together as he wandered off. Those few moments seemed special, sweet, sincere. The boy didn't care what that man was thinking or feeling about what he was there on that street doing, he just wanted to get right up close and personal and watch him do what he was doing. The boy didn't know his story, didn't have judgment to pass, didn't probably even really think about what he was doing, he just wanted to go see.
I wonder how the man felt, with this child right up in his face, just staring at him. Did he feel uncomfortable? Did he feel noticed? I think if it were me, I would feel a mix of both-- uneasy that someone was getting so intimately near me, but also pleased to know someone was eager to do so.
I want to have curiosity like that sweet, small boy. I want to be full of wonder like that. I want to get right up close to things that intrigue me, and I want to just absorb them fully and explore every angle. I want to live with a confidence and a fearlessness that doesn't take all the opinions of those around me into consideration before I make a move. I want to engage with people that most of the world just hurries past. I want to stop and appreciate simplicity, beauty, art, humanity.
I'm thankful for those few short minutes, for that sweet little boy, for encountering an interaction that has lingered with me and even challenged me.
There's a viral video going around called "Look Up" -- it's a powerful story of our society and our obsession with and absorption in our phones and technology.
Seeing this video right after this weekend wasn't coincidental, it was purposeful. I've been so clearly and beautifully reminded in the past few days that real, full, true life doesn't happen behind a screen. It happens in the moments all around us, and I want to put my phone in my pocket and dive on in.
Look up. Look around. Look in people's eyes. Look at creation. Look, and you will see.