One day, I walked into Carlos’ classroom with him. A little girl I hadn’t seen before was sitting all by herself in the book nook. She wore a pink plaid sundress, white sandals, and a big white ribbon in her hair. She was crying so hard that the bow bounced up and down with each shake of her little body.
The teachers and the rest of the class were going about their business. I’ve seen kids sitting alone like that before at the Calm Table, where they go to get away from the bustle of the classroom when they need to regroup. But this little girl wasn’t just sniveling or glowering–she hiccupped with each little sob.
I’m lucky to have a job that doesn’t mind if I’m 15 minutes late…later, so I sat down next to her on one of those tiny chairs. “Hey, are you OK?” I asked with my hand on her back.
She snurfled out a, “I…want…mommy.”
“Oh, sugar. I bet you do. Well, I’m Carlos’s mommy. Would you like a hug?” She bobbed her dripping little chin and slid over onto my lap.
“Is this your first day?” She nodded. I asked her name and she told me. I patted her back and rocked her a little bit while the rest of the kids thundered around us.
I asked Carlos to come over and say hello and he did. I told her the names of the other kids but she shrank up against me when they got too close. She wasn’t ready for them.
She held a Barbie picture book in her hand so I asked her about it. For a few minutes, we talked about books and what kind of shoes we like and how purple is her favorite color.
When it was time for me to go, she wobbled a bit but held up. I hoped she would be there in the afternoon when I picked up Carlos so I could congratulate her for being brave. But she was already gone by the time I got there.
It took a few more days before we crossed paths again at drop off time. I walked Carlos out to the playground to join his class and a bright shiny girl waved across the distance. I waved back and called her name. She ran up to me and stopped about a foot away. Just beaming.
I said, “Hey! I know you!”
She giggled and said, “You saw me when I was crying!”
We’ve been friends ever since. Her choice of words has stayed with me–“You saw me when I was crying.” She could have said, “You gave me a hug” or “I sat on your lap.” But she experienced that moment as “you saw me.” I was struggling and you saw me.
Isn’t that what we’re all crying out for? To be seen.
Sometimes it’s easy for the mean voice in my head to convince me that I am The Invisible Girl. That I could sit right down in the center of the big spinning world and cry my eyes out, but the world would whirl right past me. It’s not true, but that mean voice is an inveterate liar.
To see someone. To walk up and say, “I see you there.” It’s the simplest of gifts.