I heard these words from a particular little person for the first time recently. Producing spontaneous social language is REALLY hard for him. He’s been coming to see me weekly for months. As his mom was leading him out of my office, he turned to me and smiled.
And there it was: “Bye, Julie!”
It may not sound like much, but it was HUGE. I gasped audibly when I heard it, and I can’t stop thinking about it.
It wasn’t my goal that day for him to provide me with an unprompted farewell. We were working on other things, taking one baby step after another, trying to put the building blocks in place for him to be able to verbally show the world what a tremendous and fascinating individual he is. This was a giant leap for him, though. It shows me that he is beginning to develop an understanding of himself as a social being in relationship to (and with) other people. To have been on the receiving end of this exchange is nothing short of a precious gift. I can appreciate it as such because I know his story. I know him.
What about the dozens of similar exchanges we each experience in any given day? We don’t give them much thought because they are so routine, so expected. I know I don’t, anyway. I’m thinking about them now, though. I am trying to pay more attention to the faces who greet me or offer parting remarks, whether from friends or from strangers. I am trying to remember that there’s more to each person’s actions and behavior than what appears on the surface. It’s not a novel idea, but one I think I’ve gotten further way from than I want to be.
Reflecting on this experience has made this Holy Week especially meaningful. I’m thinking particularly of the words of Jesus at the Last Supper:
Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. (John 13:34, NIV)
The ways in which we can love one another are varied, but they each come down to this: however we may express it, love starts with believing in the intrinsic value of each person as a unique individual, whether we know that person intimately or only briefly in passing. Love opens our eyes to see one another as the miracles we each are. Love is the source of the compassion that fuels our support for one another in times of uncertainty. Love is the foundation for the forgiveness we need to extend to one another when we transgress. Love is the energy that drives us to rejoice with one another in victories both great and small. Love is what led Jesus to the Cross, and love is the transformative power of the Resurrection.
Happy Easter, sweet friends.