« Previous   |   Main   |   Next »

I See You: An Update from Raleigh and Opal

Raleigh and Opal,* with their two young children, are in the beginning stages of language and culture study in North Africa.
Sometimes when my children are needy and seem to be on the edge of frustrating me, I touch their shoulder or give them a little hug and say ‘I see you.’ Isn’t this what we all need? We want to be seen.

This week our landlady gave of herself by taking me around to different couch shops (you buy the base, the seat, and the back pillows in three different shops). She held my hand as we walked down the busy side streets to a part of our neighborhood in which I’d never been. She haggled for me, telling me the final price in French. The first time we went out, I had no idea what we were doing. We didn’t end up buying anything, just looking at the options.

“We want good for THESE people. We want to reach out, touch a shoulder, and say ‘I see you. In the craziness of the hatreds of this world, in the lack and the fullness of our cultural differences, we see you.'”A few days later she was ready to go again. On a moment’s notice, I once again held her hand as we headed towards a shop she had found. She talked through the options with the young shop owner, picking out the seat mattress and upholstery. Then we walked around the corner to a collection of second-hand shops, looking for the base. At one shop we found a very tall, conservative man with a twinkle in his eye. I was tempted to look at this beard, robe and skull cap with suspicion, but was quickly chuckling along with him about my little language. When his back was turned, my landlady whispered about how ‘right’ and good he is. The only money I had in my pocket equaled $4. ‘Ok, that is enough for a deposit.’ We left with the promise to return for both base and mattresses.

This experience came hours after a conversation with our language teacher about the relationship between married men and women in this culture. There is a proverb here that goes something like ‘When one marries, love flies away.’ She admitted that this is what she most often sees. A cultural problem or a universal one? We followed this with the realities of her boy needing to fight in order to establish his manhood. With limited language (and many corrections), we voiced our thoughts about how Jesus’ way changes how people interact and create society.

As I contemplate the exhilaration and complexity of interacting with others here, I realize how my sight has changed. When we talked about these people before we came here last fall, we hadn’t yet seen them. Now we see them. As we walk our neighborhood and city, we SEE. We want good for THESE people. We want to reach out, touch a shoulder, and say ‘I see you. In the craziness of the hatreds of this world, in the lack and the fullness of our cultural differences, we see you.’

We have been commissioned to “see.” That is what we are doing here.

*Names changed or omitted for security reasons.