Thursday, January 04, 2007

In Their Eyes(Guest Post by Barb)

I noticed such kindness in the eyes of one of my Sunbeam's fathers. I think at that moment he was holding his daughter and talking to me. I had seen him before but the kindness never really stuck me before. Maybe it was the covering that glasses provide that kept me from my initial observance. Intelligence is what we are often conditioned to find behind lenses. Those were very difficult days for me and the warmth found there was something that I took in with gratitude. I don't recall anything he ever said to me. I was very shy and probably said very little if anything to him.

About four years later, I would actively seek to stare into a Sunday School teacher's eyes. It was my third area in my mission field. That was the area that I would hit what was known as "the wall." I know what my trials were in the area but not exactly right at that time. I just remember feeling that if I stared into his eyes that it would help me to hang in there. Again, it was not about him or I having any type of friendship. It was not about having feelings for this man. I did not know him other than the fact that he seemed strong and nice. I don't think we ever had dinner at his home so he probably lived in the Elder's area. In addition, we only had very casual and limited contact. He did not seem uncomfortable to my knowledge. I just wanted something to lean on or hold onto when I was a shell. I gazed intently into his eyes as he taught trying to shut everything else out.

Several years later, I noticed the eyes of my professor during a lecture. I thought I may have detected his eyes watering. This professor seemed to ignore me in lectures never calling on me when I raised my hand. After my second test, he let me know how he thought I was so promising after the first one and was disappointed on my performance on the second. I think the moment when I encountered the humanity in his eyes was much later in the semester. In that moment, I saw more than a professor in front of me. I wondered what trials or sorrows he might have in his life that I do not think I ever considered. Through my sister, I would learn that he was diagnosed with dementia. I am not sure of the exact timing of diagnosis in regards to my class. Through his early stages of dementia, I thought how perhaps he would understand more what it was like for those who did not have his ability to recall trivia and data.

It was a few years after his diagnosis that I saw his by line in the alumni paper. I took that as a wonderful sign that he is still functioning well as he is able to organize his thoughts in a literary manner. I do not know if he felt connected to me as I tried to search his mind and heart as I looked into his eyes. Maybe, just maybe, I was a source of compassion or strength for him right when he needed it.

5 comments:

annegb said...

Another thoughtful post, Barb. I do the same thing, watch people's eyes. It makes me uncomfortable when I'm teaching or leading music, but I still do it to other people.

Lovely tribute to your professor.

Anonymous said...

Good thoughts, Barb.

Some folks have the gift of making you feel like you're a worth-while human-being merely because you're alive. It's akin to Joseph Smith's definition of being meek and lowely in heart. I can't remember the exact quote, but it had something to do with his being able to walk into a neighbor's house and making himself perfectly comfortable without any thought as to their lack of social status, income, or what have you.

Jack

Barb said...

Thank you Annegb and Jack.

I normally try to have positive body languages when people speak to encourage them. However, I am not in the practice of staring into their eyes so intently normally. Seriously, I was worried this post might come across the wrong way. I am so glad for you support, Annegb.

Jack, thank you for the thoughts regarding Joseph Smith. To be able to be no respectors of people and to have compassion regardless of one's station in life is something to emulate.

For personal reasons, the song "Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief" is very special to me. The words.."there was something in his eye that won my heart, I know not why," resonate with me. I would concentrate so much on those words when I sang it in a choir with songs about the Restoration in a special presentation. As I like to give context, I prepared for this very choir right before I went to the temple about 8 hours from my home before my mission. We made an overnight trip to Colorado as I had to be home that night to perform in the choir paying tribute to Jospeh Smith. Then, there was a lovely dinner. Such a special time in my life. I am so glad to have it brought to my remembrance through Jack's comments.

Mel said...

What a wonderful post!

Barb said...

Thank you, Mel. :)