Surely one of the most habitual questions we ask someone new to us is:
What do you do?
I have asked it, been asked it, a thousand times.
And a habitual question creates space for little more than a habitual answer.
I’m a teacher/flight attendant/student/graphic designer, comes the answer, likely the same way it’s come a thousand times before.
But then there are those questions that are asked out of something other than habit – curiosity, affection, one person actually seeing another.
“Are you from Pittsburgh?” she asks because she saw your Steelers tie.
“Do you have a dog?” he asks because of the animal hair on your sleeve.
Or just a sincere, “How are you?” because the way a fellow human is fairing matters to her.
These questions are just gentle detours off the habitual path. And not always, but often, people become beautiful when they answer them. There is an aliveness in their eyes and an electricity in their voice.
I think it’s the beauty of a creature who has been seen. And perhaps wasn’t expecting it. We have become so used to not being seen, haven’t we?
These are the kinds of questions I want to ask, be asked a thousand times. These tender inquiries born out of attention to the utterly individual, utterly irreplaceable person before us.
And that say nothing more and nothing less to that person than, I see you.