Last March, on Randall’s birthday to be exact, I lost Isaac. I was inside cleaning up after birthday dinner. It was an unseasonably warm day. Wait. We live in St. Louis. Is there such a thing as seasonable weather? It changes so often and surprises us so much that it’s like an episode of 24: predictably unpredictable. Anyway, it was a beautiful evening. I was inside and couldn’t find Isaac anywhere.
I looked out my front window and saw Isaac dressed in a spiderman cape, straight out of a Mexican wrestling rink, standing in our plum tree. He was staring out at the cars as they passed. I knew exactly what he was doing. Waiting to be noticed.
I remember shopping with my mom as a kid. She’d do her thing and I’d stand in the store front window as still as possible pretending to be a mannequin. The idea was to blend in with the mannequins but in reality, I think I wanted to stand out. I wanted to be noticed.
I’ve seen my boys do it before: put on their super hero garb and stand in the front yard just waiting for a car to pass.
Often people would look and smile, some would stop and say “hi,” and others wouldn’t notice at all. The ones that don’t notice Spiderman in the front yard often offend Asher. When he was smaller, he’d even cry if a driver didn’t see him.
As introverted as a person can get, we all still want to be noticed, don’t we? Something within us longs to be seen, to stand out in a crowd. I still have that desire.
I watched God Grew Tired of Us, a documentary about the Lost Boys of Sudan. During a civil war in the ’80s, over 20,000 boys fled their homes and their families to escape death and seek refuge in Ethiopia and Kenya. Two thirds of them died along the way but the strong that escaped made home in refugee camps with their Sudanese brothers. Times were still hard in the camps. They didn’t always have food, they didn’t always have shelter but they did always have community. A few thousand of these boys, a decade later were transported to the United States to live and work in freedom. Here in the states, they worked like Americans, where “time is money.” Many of them were forced to work more than one job to pay the bills, but they still sent every extra penny they had home to their families, their refugee brothers, or their biological families if they could find them.
The trailer for the documentary says it is a story of hope. I did not get that feeling from the documentary. In America, these men had food, work and shelter, even beds and blankets and pillows. They had luxuries like a television and a telephone, but they lost their families. Even though they were often living in the same building as each other, they were working so hard, they rarely saw each other. The documentary followed a few boys closely and they seemed to long for friendship; commaraderie; relationship. As much as they may have stood out in a crowd, they still lived unnoticed, they still were not seen for who they were.
I was telling my friend about the documentary and her eyes filled with tears. She said she felt sorry for the boys who were left behind. My thought was opposite. Food, water, shelter, these are neccesary for life, but where does relationship fit in? I felt sorry for those who were chosen to come to the land of plenty to work to support themselves, and their families.
Work is good. I think most people feel blessed to have jobs. God created man (and woman) to work. It gives us a sense of purpose. It helps make the world run smoothly. Work is good. But I do not believe it is meant to consume us so completely as it often does.
Who we are is not what we do. Who we are is what is in our hearts, minds, and souls. We need to be seen for who we are. When Isaac and Asher are playing dress up, they want to be seen as heroes. They want to be admired but mostly, just noticed.
Isaac, I see you for who you are. You are beautiful, but so much more than that. You are smart. You are a daddy’s boy. You are courageous and inquisitive. You love others well. You love to entertain. You are my boy and I love you for the hard headed, energetic, silly boy you are.
Asher, I see you for who you are. You are adorable, but so much more than that. You are kind hearted. You have a passion for animals. You are smart and caring. You are a leader and you think for yourself. You give the best hugs I have ever received and I wish I could hold you forever in my arms. You are my boy and I love you for the sweet, rambunctious, Basher you are.
God, may these boys find their identity in You. May they come to terms with who you made them to be. May they embrace their strengths and be cautious of their faults. Remind me to stop and notice them every once in a while between instruction, guidance, discipline, and play time. You have made masterpieces in these boys and I am grateful that you have given me such precious gifts. I can’t wait to watch them as they grow and change and become more like… themselves. I pray that they grow and change and become more like You at the same time. Thank you for giving us all the perfect example in your son, Jesus. Thank you for noticing us and loving us right where we are.