Loving Means Seeing

Written by on September 27, 2008 in Life and Family, Notes By The Way with 9 Comments

I received an email from a friend today describing how his son has become a stranger to him. He had an image of his son, but somewhere along the way the son rejected that identity. Now both are struggling to find themselves: one as a father and the other on his own terms.

I was moved by my friend’s story. My kids are younger than his. I don’t want to compare myself to him or anyone else, but I could relate to what he wrote. It’s not easy to SEE your own children. It’s more “natural” of me to “see” them according to my own needs and desires.

Later in the evening I stepped out and boarded a train to go meet some friends in Hachioji. I had ten minutes so I pulled out my Bible to see if anything inspiring would leap out quickly. I opened it and found two folded paper hearts (origami hearts).

One heart was blue and smaller than the other. It was intricately folded in Cambodia by Kunthy. Kunthy is one of the kids at the orphanage in Cambodia who I’ve grown very fond of during my three trips there (far left photo in brown). One evening she folded the heart and gave it to me, and I kept it in my Bible as a precious gift.

The other heart was pink. After returning to Japan I took out my little Bible, opened it, and showed the heart to my daughters (Reia in the middle photo, Mari and Maika in the photo on the right). They know about Kunthy and sometimes ask about her. Reia, my oldest, picked up some origami paper and folded a heart. She used a different method that’s less complex (larger, simpler folds). I looked at it and just said something like, “Oh, yeah, but this is different.” My wife was sitting nearby and said, “It’s a heart.” I looked again, “Yeah, it is.” But I didn’t get it. I left it laying on my desk.

When I opened my Bible on the train and saw both hearts there, I realized that someone, my wife or my daugher, had put Reia’s heart inside next to the one Kunthy had made — the very thing I suddenly wished I had done myself.

So I had my moment of inspiration, but it wasn’t what I expected. I closed my eyes and thanked God for my daughter, and I longed for the grace to love her well, which is to really see her.

Here’s a quote that I sent to my friend today, and now I’m thinking about the words again.

What does it mean to love? It means to see a person, a  situation, a thing as it really is, not as you imagine it to be. And to give it the response it deserves. (Anthony De Mello, Awareness, 161)

PS – My daugher put her heart there. Ouch, truth hurts, but it’s healing.

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About the Author

About the Author: Andy Gray is a writer and photographer living in Phnom Penh, Cambodia and working with Alongsiders International. You can find him puttering around the streets of Phnom Penh on his Suzuki Viva 125, running stoplights and driving on the wrong side of the road or on the sidewalks like a local. If you see him in a coffee shop, he'll be the one typing and deleting the same line over and over again. .


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  • I found your blog by reading your comment on the Divine Nobodies blog. I usually comment on Jim’s myspace/divinenobodies site – same posts, but I usually read the comments on both.

    This is one of the most beautiful stories of Love I have read in a while. I know the feeling on both sides of the coin.

    May I copy this post with a link to your blog/site ofcourse, on the http://www.turnloveinsideout.com blog page? YOu may know this but the site was developed by Jim Palmer and Anne Goodrich. I blog there rather frequently and I would like to use this as my next post with your permission ofcourse.

    Thanks – I also love your photos. Your work is stunning! People are my favorit subject.


  • I’m glad you liked this. Feel free to re-post it there. Thanks.

  • joyce

    I’ve followed your blog for a while now and I never say anything (from the original site, actually), but this one hit home, though in a different way. I’m a teenager, so I’m the other end of the spectrum. I know what its like to be the kid who didn’t turn out the way the parents expected, it feels in many ways like you disappointed them, and thats not an easy thing. Your comment here today didn’t take me by surprise in that I’d never thought of something like that, I have, I’m not an idiot. What took me by surprise was that you admitted to it, and I realized that in some ways my parents have admitted it also, just not in so many words.

    so thanks for making me step back for a moment. I think I’m going to make my parents a paper heart now.

  • Good for you. I think most parents desperately hope for second chances. And third ones, etc.

  • Hey Andy,

    Thanks for sharing a bit of yourself, many of us I am sure can relate. Seeing others is the start of becoming a more loving person, and seeing ourselves is the start of becoming a more lovable person. You are fortunate in that you have two great families to love and be loved by.



  • Nelly Simon

    Hello Andy,

    Wayne emailed me the link to “Loving Means Seeing”. Thank you so very much for sharing your story. I have a little boy (Joshua) turning 4 in November and a little girl (Natasha) only just 9 months old. I remember what it was like as a child trying hard to win my parents approval by being someone they want me to so. And if I do not meet their expectations, I felt very rejected and unworthy. It put a huge strain on my relationship with them. Your story made me realise that as parents, we do the best we can and sometimes we see “best” rather differently from our children…and many times, parents can get it wrong. But what is most important is that it is borne of good intentions and love. I have printed out the story you shared in a hope that as a parent myself, I will always remember to love and accept them unconditionally, to “see” them as the potential they can be. My parents will be getting a surprise call tonight….just to tell them I love them and appreciate all they have done for me. Thank you for sharing! God bless!

  • Isabelle (^^)

    Well, I would just like to leave a short comment about the last photo (the twins). Is it Mari or Maika, I do not know… but the one who is performing karate in a ballet dress is really funny. She seems to be one of a kind! Thanks for sharing your lovely photos. They are all moving… in different ways. I like your blog.

  • Don’t know how I found your blog, but living in Japan now and dating a Japanese girl very seriously, it has been a blessing. My girlfriend is not a follower of The Way and we spend much time talking about my faith and planting the seeds in her with questions and actions. It has been a growing experience for me to have to really act out my faith on an everyday all day basis to someone. Something I needed…. Things are going well for me, and us–we are approaching some big steps of faith for her in the future–I know it. Hope you keep writing. As on of my favorite quotes says, “We stayed at home to write, and consolidate our outstretched selves.” Plath.

    Thanks for the inspiration.

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