"You are the sum total of everything you believe and see in the world," I said.
I was speaking to a small group recently, sharing my thoughts and ideas for the new year. I went on to urge everyone to look for the opportunity to see life in the details.
"For having spent this time together today, we are now a little bit more than we were yesterday," I concluded. "You are now a part of me wherever I go."
As it happens after every talk I share, people come up to offer their kind words and general comments and ask a few questions. From experience, I know that some will be brief and some, well, they will dominate the little time I have until the next speaker takes the podium. I make every attempt to speak to each person waiting, even if I must take them out to the hallway in order to permit the meeting to go on.
Eye contact is key. I try to "see what they are saying." Keeping a promise I made to myself, I did speak with about a dozen people that day. I managed to speak with all the people in the line, but as I was gathering my notes, I heard someone say, "It's also what you didn't see."
I looked around and saw no one. Shrugging it off, I continued my effort to collect myself.
I picked up my belongings and turned quickly, nearly running into a man standing directly behind me.
"Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't know you were there, my friend," I said.
"I didn't mean to startle you," he said. "I heard your talk."
"Oh, thanks for being there."
"It's also what you didn't see," he said.
Not having any idea what that meant, I looked over my glasses and paused for a second before asking, "What didn't I see?"
"You said, ‘You are the sum total of everything you believe and see in the world,’" he explained, "but I believe it's more about what you don't see."
I asked him to explain. "It's easy to say that we need to see life in the details, but we must also learn what to look for."
He was right. "So you’re saying we are what we choose to see," I said.
"Yes, and your job is to help us learn what to look for," he added. He then shook my hand, placed his hand on my shoulder, smiled, and walked away.
I sat down and thought about what he said. I thought about the many things we don’t see:
It's easy to see the light, but we need to value the darkness, too. There we will find the lost and lonely who are always left behind.
Anyone can find a rose in a field of dandelions, praise its beauty, and bathe in its perfume, but who will see the value in what appears to be weeds?
We can celebrate the first one to cross the finish line, but who will see the magnificent effort of the one who finished last?
We can stand in awe of the master architects who built the Taj Mahal, but who is moved by the maintenance workers who clean it and make it shine daily?
We can climb to the top of a mountain and congratulate ourselves for having accomplished the feat. But who sees the miracle in the creation of both us and the mountain?
Yes, we are the sum total of all we believe, all we choose to see, and all we don't.
Maybe we are given just one day at a time to live but many chances to see it differently. The question to ask ourselves is, “What have I been missing?”