From my chair at the desk, I can see the neighbor man working on one of his decrepit vehicles. J is wearing a billcap on backward, a black, sleeveless t-shirt, and saggy jeans. He looks sad as he works among the weeds. A cigarette droops from his mouth.
After a while, J drops his tools and shuffles to his ratty old trailer house for a beer, kicking at a few pieces of trash on his way. He is alone except for his dad, who looks even more shaggy and depressed. I think it’s the most heartbreaking view I have ever seen from a window.
I collapse, exhausted, onto my bed. Life and mothering has done me in, drained my soul and body. As I pull up my favorite fuzzy blanket, I notice thick, dark streaks on the windowpane.
What?! I look closer, and sure enough, a blond boy from my street left his name in brown on the glass. Outside on the ground lies an empty chocolate chip bag flapping forlornly in the wind.
What sort of craving drove this motherless child to etch his name on my window? What cry for help is encoded in the streaks of chocolate?
I see the young man trotting along the street, as he has many, many days before. He wears giant sunglasses to hide his soul. Always, his hands are shoved into his pocket while his face wears the blankest of blank expressions. Headphones cover his ears as he silently marches through all kinds of weather.
What is he walking away from? I wonder. He walks and walks and walks, sealed off from the world behind his sunglasses and headphones. Nobody ever walks with him. He is always alone.
But that is not all I see from my window. I see my mud-spattered little girl mixing and patting mudpies. I see my golden-haired boy’s legs vigorously pumping his trike up and down the driveway. I see my oldest son watching our fat brown chickens as they scratch and peck contentedly at tasty morsels they discover in the yard. I see my middle child with a basketball, shooting baskets. I see my husband gently pruning our new fruit trees, expertly coaxing the trees to maturity.
“Come see what I made!” my mud-crusted daughter cries with delight.
Some of what I see from my window slows my heart with sadness. Other things bring me joy, just like my lilac bush blooming last spring and my son figuring out how to ride his trike.
I don’t know what to do with the mix of joy and sadness of the world at my doorstep. I know I cannot merely observe, distant from people and their needs.
Yet, I can’t help but believe that the first step toward loving is not to do, but to see.
What do you see from your window?