This title may strike you as odd, and even as I write it, it can seem that way, but bear with me as I explain.
Growing up, we are often taught to “not stare.”
And I so get that.
I am married to an admitted “starer.”
Josh is a people-watcher. He has been since he was a little boy, and he does even to this day. He pays attention to details and knows the brand of shoes someone wears, their car make and model, and is really so good at picking up when someone is hurting. He has great intuition and just is a wonderful people watcher.
(I truly think his people-watching is a big part of what gives him such a HUGE heart).
However, this “people-watching” oftentimes can be seen as staring.
It can also be seen as being nosy.
We were at Starbucks a few weekends ago with our girls and as I was talking to Josh, he had his head turned to the people beside us totally eavesdropping on their conversation! I was telling a story, and I could tell he wasn’t listening at all. We both laughed our heads off in Starbucks as I pointed this out, and he agreed that he didn’t even realize he was doing it!
He quickly turned his head back to me, apologized and we laughed at how being a “starer”, a “people-watcher”, a “want to know what is going on in other’s lives” person is something that is so engrained in him.
Let’s just say our oldest got his same “staring” gene. Genevieve will straight up stare people down, with her eyebrows furrowed as she is studying someone.
Many times, I will direct her attention elsewhere or at least try and help her smile, as to not make other people feel uncomfortable.
I have heard and know of many hurtful stories where someone has felt inappropriately stared at, or talked about because of something looking different about them, and this is something that I will continue to talk to my girls about and make them aware.
But my little conversation the other day with Genevieve when she was giving someone the stare-down brought me back to when I was going through cancer.
One thing I really craved for people to do was look at me.
Of course, most days I didn’t want to be looked at or have attention, but as I started looking more “sickly”, I noticed many people would glance my way and then quickly turn their heads.
I would bet their sweet parents taught them the rule of “not staring.”
If I had gotten gawking stares during those times I looked and felt sick, I am sure it would have beaten me down, but honestly I didn’t get many of those.
I got the feeling that people were just awkward with me, and just didn’t want to look at me, as I am sure they didn’t want me to feel like they were staring at me.
I remember one day during my cancer treatment, I was at TJ Maxx getting some wrapping paper. I noticed many people look at me and then immediately look away. I remember thinking to myself that it must be really noticeable that look sick.
As I was checking out at the counter, the cashier said, “Are you going through cancer treatment?” I said, “Yes, I am.” She said, I just want to say you are beautiful and I will pray for you. How are you?”
My eyes welled up with tears, and I thanked her for saying that.
As much as I didn’t want people to stare at me, I still wanted to be looked at. I still wanted to be noticed. I still wanted to be asked how I was doing, just like the other people who looked “normal.”
Yes, I will correct Genevieve and my other two when they are all-out gawking at someone, but I am trying to teach them to look at people who look different, and even if they are staring– say hello, give a smile, ask them their name or how their day is.
I know there are many people out there that feel like they look different than the average American person (whatever that is anymore).
A different face.
A different body.
Using a wheelchair.
A different color of skin.
A different ability.
Different looking hair.
A different sounding voice.
A bald head.
The list goes on and on.
So, I hope you will join with me in using those “staring” moments with your kids as moments to tell them that when they are drawn to stare, that they don’t just turn the other way, but that they give a smile, a hello, a simple, “How are you?”.
Oftentimes those people that are more likely to be “stared” at are the ones who need the love the most.
Just sharing a tidbit of what has been on my heart lately with my family of “starers” :).
If you stare, give love while you’re looking,