I worked with Jane for many years – an excellent teacher, a popular member of staff, a good team player. I knew her husband George too – strong, confident, always cheerful. They were both good people and seemed happy together.
They moved away. They were divorced. I learnt that for much of the time that I had known them, George had regularly drunk too much, watched pornography and abused Jane.
I saw them with fresh eyes. I saw what Jane had put up with, but kept hidden; my already high opinion of her rose. I saw George’s strong confidence as a façade, covering his damage, weaknesses and insecurities.
It’s easy to give people labels, to make assumptions. The distracted dreamboat, the untidy mess, the fitness fanatic… the ginger woman with a quick temper, the lazy overweight man, the self-conscious shy girl…
Labels are sometimes too sticky; we need to see people with fresh eyes.
I spoke to a man on the phone last night. We talked about this and that – his family, Covid, politics. He talked about what it’s like to live on his own. I was the first person he had talked to since last Friday. I saw him with fresh eyes.
I remember reading Gary Barlow’s autobiography. A famous singer, rich, successful… I had a convenient box to put him in. Then I read of his mental ill-health, his eating disorder, his love for his wife and strong family ethic, their extreme grief when their baby died. I saw him with fresh eyes.
Musing… St Paul writes to Philemon and says that he is to see his slave Onesimus with fresh eyes… not as a slave but a brother.
Paul was following in the steps of Jesus who saw Mary the prostitute, Zacchaeus the tax collector, Nicodemus the Pharisee and Bartimaeus the blind beggar with fresh eyes.
… A healed Bartimaeus then saw Jesus with fresh eyes.