The Need To Be Noticed

weeds

“Let us remember: We’re all just waiting for someone to notice—notice our pain, notice our scars, notice our fear, notice our joy, notice our triumphs, notice our courage.” Rachel Macy Stafford

It’s not often I get out for a Saturday morning walk before the break of dawn anymore. But, today I did – and I’m glad. Because no sooner had I crossed the street that leads from the entrance to our apartment building to my walk route than I came across a small calico kitten lying in the dew-stained grass of a large field near the sidewalk. She was shivering cold, scared to death and alone. My initial instinct was to scoop her up and take her home with me and I actually would’ve if I could’ve, but I’m allergic to cats, so I did what, in the moment, seemed like the next best thing. Despite knowing that it likely would mean spending the remainder of my 6 mile journey sniffling and sneezing, I stopped, bent down as softly and as slowly as I could so as not to scare her away and gently began to brush the tiny droplets of moisture left behind by a long night spent in the weeds off her back. As the trust between us grew, I moved my hand to the side of her face and began to stroke it for a few minutes, all the while staring in her eyes. By the time I stood up to continue on my walk, I could’ve sworn I saw her smile – not because I’d “rescued” her, but because I’d noticed her, taken a moment to care – offered a tiny seed of hope that today might be a little different, a little kinder than yesterday.

As I walked away, it occurred to me that there are lots of “little kittens” like my new friend walking around on two feet in this world. Some are doing their level best to hide in the weeds, while others are sharing our church pew on Sunday, our lunch room at work, our classroom at school, our Social Media networks – even our dining room table at home – insisting they’re “fine”. Yesterday, one of them, a young South Florida lawyer with a two year-old son and a beautiful wife put a gun to his head and took his own life. I didn’t know the man, except through a mutual friend and I don’t pretend for a minute to have any understanding of the demons he was battling or how long he’d been fighting them. I’m also not naïve enough to believe for a minute that a few words of encouragement or affirmation would have made a meaningful difference, let alone led to a different outcome. But, maybe they could have helped if they’d come at the right time, been uttered by the right person, struck just the right chord or opened the door of hope just wide and long enough to allow his troubled soul to catch a glimpse of the possibility that tomorrow could be different – and maybe they will for someone like him, someone you may know or encounter as you walk through life.

I can’t help but think there is a lesson to be learned from this young man and this morning’s encounter with my precious little friend. Perhaps it is that all lives matter; that we’re all in this Life thing together; that loneliness and fear are real and far more prevalent and life-threatening than we realize; that we all have the capacity to be a little more attentive to each other; that sometimes we are called to look beyond polite assurances to family, friends and colleagues that someone is “fine” into eyes that on closer inspection plainly reveal a deeper, darker truth – and not ignore it when we see it; that we can’t afford to make assumptions about people based on how many FB friends or Twitter followers they have or how many smiling faces they post on Instagram; or that, contrary to what we may believe, all of us have the time to step outside of ourselves, to stop and offer an ear to listen, an open heart to empathize and open arms to offer a moment of comfort and reassurance. Sometimes that moment may be all it takes to reignite a pilot light of hope, give birth to a commitment to take a first step on the road to recovery or the next or inspire a willingness to finish out the day and give tomorrow a chance.

The little kitten wasn’t there when I made my way back to the apartment this morning. I’d like to think it’s because a friend came along and invited her to play or that she found her way home to her worried mother. In fact, I did think that – and this time the smile was mine!

5 thoughts on “The Need To Be Noticed

  1. Don, this is wonderful writing! I’m so sorry about the young lawyer and his grieving family! I really liked the kitty story and wish you could have taken her home.

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  2. You had my attention from the start with a Rachel Macy Stafford quote. I’m a noticer too and I say I am “fine” and “OK” when people ask. I so get this in all the ways. Best of all, one night in November a little orange kitten came home with me. His eyes were rheumy and his breathing labored and his nose scraped, maybe from an asphalt duck and roll. He was so tiny and I carried him home and we named him Panzer, the German word for tank and because it sounds like pouncer and he is. We love him so. We needed each other. My oldest teenage son held Panzer so gently and said, “We’ve never had a kitten before.” We needed him for all the laughter and joy his striped orange fur antics add to our home. Glad you paused to pet off the dew even with the sneezy side effect the kitty’s fur caused you.
    My heart aches for the survivors of the man who ended his life by his own hand. Depression and despair are liars and thieves and hope stealers as is feeling lost and alone and burdened beyond repair. No! The pit is real. Heartache. Guns and mental illness do not mix, the problem is living in the world people are so very good at keeping on their masks.

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