Taking Notice

Do You See?
You know the fellow, who regularly collects the prayer books at your synagogue? The one who quietly circulates around the room and carries armloads of books back to the shelf? I am sure you thanked him the first and second time that he took your book, but do you still thank him? Do we even notice him?

The sad fact of human nature is that we grow quickly accustomed to the nice things that people do for us and stop noticing the kindness. After years of quietly providing a free voluntary service, that person might very well wake up one day and ask himself why he still does it? Surely, he enjoys doing it and it is a labor of love, but no one takes notice and no one is grateful. No one ever lends a hand because no one even thinks twice about how the books get back to the shelves. Everyone assumes that it just gets done.

This happens in marriages too. When we first marry, we are infatuated with our spouse. We feel fortunate that the person we love and admire so much agreed to spend the rest of his or her life with us. We are simply overwhelmed by our good fortune. But with time, this enchanted marvel fades and we take our spouse’s presence for granted. We continue to love and admire our spouse, but we no longer marvel over their willingness to be with us. We just simply accept it as a fact of life.

But it is not a fact of life. It is a gift in every sense of the word that we give each other every day of our marriage. Each morning, as we wake up in each other’s presence, we both make the choice to share our lives with the other. This is a gift that we receive. We know it, but do we see it? Do we notice it?

There are many things that we see, but don’t notice. It is almost as if our eyes have stopped working. At funerals, we often wonder why the person eulogized in such glowing terms seemed so ordinary in life. Why didn’t we notice these unique qualities when we could enjoy them, why do we only notice them in retrospect?

The analogy for this is a fetus in utero. It has eyes, but can’t see. It has ears, but can’t hear. Then we are born, and our eyes, can see, our ears can hear, but we often miss what we look at and don’t actually see it. We hear about things, but don’t actually listen. We don’t take notice.

Noticing G-d

If you are believer then you know deep in your gut that G-d is present in each tree, flower, building, stone, puff of wind, ray of sunlight, kind smile, friendly gesture and warm heart. We know that G-d is present in each joyous occasion and each tragic loss, in each triumph and each trial, we believe with absolute conviction that G-d is everywhere.

But just like it is with our physical eyes in utero that cannot see, and our emotional eyes in life that often don’t notice, so it is with the eyes of our soul. Just because we know that we are looking at G-d, doesn’t mean that we notice Him. He is there, He is taking care of us, He is holding us in His loving embrace, but we act as if He is absent; as if we are on our own.

The tale is told of a man walking on the beach, who notices a set of footprints beside his own. He is warmed by the thought that G-d is at his side. When the going gets difficult, he looks back and is alarmed to see only one set of footprints. In his heart he calls out, dear G-d, why did you abandon me in my hour of need? To which G-d replies, I did not abandon you, my child. The footsteps that you see, they are mine. I have lifted you in my arms . . . I am carrying you.

This story resonates with us and we know it to be true. But we don’t feel that truth in our bones every second of the day. At times we have an epiphany and this truth hits us between the eyes, but those moments are few and far between.

When those moments arrive, we feel as if we have come alive. As if an unseen hand has released the catch and opened the door to our prison cell. We have been set free to see. To truly see the endless well of beauty, power and meaning that pulsates with life, that gleams with beauty and that fills us with purpose and meaning.