I have a friend named Kristen who has a special practice for showing love- not just saying she loves, but showing that she does. I don’t think that she knows how special and unique it is nor do I believe she would call it a practice, but in doing this particular thing on several occasions over the years, it’s enough for me to believe that this thing that she does is love in action.
The first time she practiced this thing that she wouldn’t call a practice was when we were twenty-six (we’re a month apart in age). On this particular warm autumn evening, we headed out for a drink at the restaurant where we both worked, to relax and talk about life. As we sat on the patio sipping craft beer out of our fancy frosted goblets, she announced that she had something for me. It was a card that she had hand written and wanted to read aloud to me. From that card she read all the things she knew about me and appreciated about our friendship. She used words to tell me that she thought I was courageous; she thanked me for sharing with her words of wisdom during times of sadness; she told me that I was empathic even though I feared that I suffered from apathy. As she read these things to me, I recognized something- she had remembered the very things that our relationship was made of. I felt known, heard, and remembered. I felt seen.
Another time my friend practiced this practice that she wouldn’t call a practice was when I was preparing to be married. She handcrafted a letter made from cream card stock, bound the pages by wire, wrote words using different colors of ink and carved out misshapen hearts here and there throughout the pages. In this letter she shared with me other things she knew about me. She shared with me that she noticed how much time and effort I had put into reading books on self help, studying every religion I felt called to study, and coming to peace with my faith of origin. She shared with me that she was witness to the pain that I had experienced over the years and that every good change that I made in my life was a positive change in the lives of those I interacted with and a positive change in the world. She shared with me that the misshapen hearts represented life and how when painful things happen, our hearts change a little, but that that is what makes us beautiful and unique.
Now, I don’t mean to shine a light on myself by describing the details of these love letters that my friend wrote to me. I simply want to show the depth of her attention to her friend (fortunately this friend is me). My friend, this girl Kristen, has a special gift for really seeing people. I know this because I feel seen by her. I feel seen by her because she told me that she sees me. She told me she sees me by telling me what she sees. And what she sees is the things that I’ve shown her, and maybe even, a few things more.
The letter Kristen gave me before my wedding wasn’t the second time she practiced this practice, nor was it the last. She did it again and again, most times in conversation- she would repeat to me the things that I had shared with her in the past, almost as if she was reminding me of who I really was. In fact, that’s exactly what she was doing.
And so, all this to say, in life and in showing the ones we love that we love them, perhaps grand gestures or fancy gifts aren’t the only things that send the message. Perhaps sending a message that says, “I hear you and I see you,” is the best gift of all.