What do you see when you look at me?

I wonder what they all see when they look into our windows. What do you see when you look at me? Have I spent so much time worrying about what I see rather than how others see me?  We must not confuse our own view of ourselves in the mirror with the view that others have of us as we stand naked in the window.

A famous story among policemen is that of the woman who calls to complain about the man who constantly watches as she undresses each night. When the policeman arrives at her home, she walks him into her bedroom where the shades are open allowing all to see whatever happens in the bedroom.  He politely explains that if she wants privacy all she need do is to pull her shades closed.

Yet so many of us lay ourselves out there, naked with the shades open wide to the world. Opening ourselves to the judgement of others and worrying or complaining about their views when they judge.  Have we not invited them into our rooms? Have we not opened our shades and exposed ourselves to others and their judgement?woman_silhouette_shower_curtain

So why should we fear their judgement? Perhaps we should ask them, what is it you see when you look at me? When going clothes shopping, my bride will try on a new dress then look at herself many times in the mirror, but her view is not complete until she asks me what I see.  Her opinion of the dress is not only framed by how she sees herself but how others see her in it.

The other day a woman called me a racist.  I have been called many things in my life, been cut by words as sharp as the knives that have stabbed me as well.  However, this stopped me and made me look again.  I found myself looking again in the mirror not to see what I have always seen of myself but wondering what others saw in me.  Did others think this of me? What could I have done to earn this moniker at the hands of this woman?

I have spent my adult life advocating for those who needed my assistance, regardless of race or creed.  I have spent hundreds of nights in the worst parts of our community trying to help those who called for help, never once asking what color was the skin of the person whose voice called for my help.  My curtains are always open and my emotions always on display, whether I like them to be or not.  I am a good guardian but not a good actor.  When I am cut, I bleed; when my soul hurts, I cry.

She sees me based not on the lens which I see myself but based on the lens of her own experience.  In her world, we are all racists.  I am a person who wears a badge in her world, therefore I am a racist like the rest.  She sees the shield alone and not the man who bears it.

I will continue to leave the curtains open so that I can look out and enjoy the view.  However, I will also wonder what others see when they look into my window.  I will wonder how they will judge me based upon who they “think” that I am and not what they can see from the outside.  And with that in my mind, I will try not to view them differently or to judge them based solely upon what I see with the lens that I wear but what they truly are. What they are when they lie naked within their room, beyond the open window and passed their open curtains.

I will view them in a way that I wish they would view me, with honestly and a belief that there is good within them until they prove to me otherwise.  I will look out of my window and no longer simply wonder about the things that lie without but also will wonder what others think of me and the things that lie within.

Judgement Day

There are no windows here. Four walls adorned with government symbols and flags. It’s supposed to represent the power of government to protect the people. For some reason it just represents a room with no view of the past or future. It’s just a place where we apply the law, nothing more and nothing less.

The lights in the courtroom seem brighter today. Almost blinding me. I am sitting with two others in the jury box because there are no seats available in the gallery. Normally we sit in the back, hidden away from the judge and the lawyers. Our work is done, after nearly a year and thousands of hours toiling over disgusting and almost inhuman information and messages and pictures and emails, after an eternity of darkness in his pathetic and single minded little world, we are done and today is his day.  It is judgement day.

In the back corner of the gallery I can see her sitting with her mother and father. She is in college now but she still looks so very innocent.  She is pretty and tries to hide her beauty under long hair and baggy clothes. Her lack of self-confidence is entirely because of him. Just another wound that may never heal.  She sees me looking and smiles shyly.  I smile back and give her a nod. She did the right thing. We are here for her today.  But she is not the only victim here.

His wife and kids are here to. They haven’t really seen him for a year. He sat in a cold dark cell while we busied ourselves exploring the depths of his depravity.  His wife still believed him. At times I wanted to just call her and tell her what we found. Tell her what he really was. Tell her that she deserved so very much more than the monster that she shared a bed with for so long.

I look to his oldest daughter who was only a year or two younger than the victim.  I remember seeing text messages to his daughters about picking them up and the very next text setting up a time to meet a girl their age to “play.”  That’s what he called the game. It was play.  Most games have a winner and a loser.  Not these games. Everyone lost. This entire room lost.

His hair is grey now.  He looks tired in his prison jumpsuit. I look at the handcuffs on the chain belt around his waist and smile a little thinking back to when we first cuffed him.  When we first took away his freedom much the same way that he took hers away. He was going with us whether he wanted to or not. She felt the same way. She thought he loved her and where he went she would follow.  She was a prisoner of another kind, a worse kind of emotional prison.girl-in-the-window

I hear him apologize to her and his family. Its sounds hollow to me. His mother begins to wail and he describes how their “relationship” started. He calls it a relationship. I feel like standing up in my seat and telling the judge that he shouldn’t be allowed to call it that. He shouldn’t be allowed to use that word because it doesn’t represent what he had with her. He raped her, there was no relationship I want to yell.

But I don’t. I sit and wait. Finally he stops talking and the judge begins to establish that he will spend the next seventeen years behind bars considering the impact of what he has done.  Some are happy with that but I look back at her. Her father is holding her tightly as she cries. This part is over. He will “pay” for his crime. But when they walk out of this building and into the street it will not end for her. She will pay for his crime for the rest of her life. I did what I could to give her justice but I know that it will never truly be enough to make up for what he had done.

Again I will go home and shower the feeling of the dirty animal off of me. I will put the thousands of notes and pictures and files into boxes in storage and never look at them again. But I won’t have to. I will remember each of them. I will remember each piece of the pain that he caused. I always do.

When I am finished I sit in my chair and look out of my window. The sun is bright today. All I can think is, “what’s next” and wait for the next cry for help.  It’s out there beyond that window and soon I will hear it and it will start again. That’s my choice. For right now, I relax and sit and wait. What’s next?

Renewal and looking inside your window

Yesterday I opened the blinds to look out of my wonderful window and took a moment to be thankful for the weekend view.  So many times we are so very hurried during the week that the view is always just passing us by, quick glimpses of those that we encounter and the view of others running the same race with no real destination beyond survival.

Then comes the time we are supposed to stop and spend time at home, looking inward instead of outside the window. Talking to our family and trying to forget those terrible things we may have encountered during the week.  Recovery. Solitude. Peace. And with a little luck, renewal.


I look at the lives that my children have and compare them to those who I encounter every day, those who have been the victim of some horrific act or another and those who would victimize others in one horrific way or another.  Some of them are as old as my children in years, but in life experience they are worlds apart.  Many have not felt the warmth of a parents embrace, heard the reassuring voice of a supportive parent or felt the deep sense of belonging that a family can provide.

Some are destined to walk alone and may never feel nor provide another with those feelings. How can we ever teach them to be good parents and to avoid the mistakes that they may have encountered? How can we shed light on what they should feel and who they should become as parents? How do we break through a wall that emotional neglect has created?

But it is the weekend and I close my eyes to stop those thoughts.  I concentrate on a picture next to my desk and remind myself that these are the ones who I can impact, that while I cannot save everyone, I can make life better for these kids.  I can make sure that each and every day I reassure them and hold them lovingly. I can remind them that they are special and they have something important to bring to the world.

Monday will come again and I will do my best to help those strangers who are in pain that I encounter.  And I will remind myself of the joy that I have looking inside my windows as I come home at night and see what my life is truly about.  While I spend so much time staring and wondering about the view from inside, it is nice once in a while to stand outside and look in.  The real joy is to see those who are looking back out at you.

Clearing the dust and looking out once more

It’s been a while since I could sit back and actually take a look for the view. I have missed my window and am looking forward to pulling up a chair and seeing once again what there is to see.

When I look out I have to clean off the dust that’s built up around it, I haven’t been able to look outside for an eternity, been so busy living in the world that I have somehow forgotten how to take a breath, take a step back and just look both inside and out.

There is safety inside the window. We are not exposed to the elements; snow is pretty but it cannot bite your skin with the pain of frost. A rolling thunderstorm is an amazing spectacle from the window, but outside it is a danger and you become drenched in sweat, rain and even a touch of fear.  It is always safe to look out this window from inside the locked room, not standing beyond and experiencing everything that exists outside of it.

Should we open the window?dusty-window Try to breathe the air but still be able to slam it shut if the air tastes bitter?   Put our hand out there to see if it can “feel” differently than within.  Perhaps we should. Or do we even want to?

From the window I can see the landscape before me and not that which lies in the shadows, waiting and whispering to me.  Things that have long fallen from my hands, from when I always left the window open, when fear wasn’t part of who I am.  I used to lean out of the window, teetering on the edge, almost daring myself to fall but not. I basked in the tension and thrill of the risk.

I have forgotten how beautiful it is to look out there.  Wind blowing across the trees and when I touch the glass I can feel the outside. The window pane shakes ever so slightly at my touch.  I pull my hand back quickly, almost afraid of the feeling yet wanting to feel it again. Making the connection and desperate to feel that world again.

In the end, I open the window and push myself past the safety of the window frame, exposed to the outside world and able to feel the sun again.  I breathe in and let the warmth fill my lungs.  The air is good and the breeze is gentle, almost caressing my cheek like a lost lover. It feels….welcoming.

The Writers Note:  I am so very sorry to have been away so long. So busy living life that I stopped writing about how I feel while living it.  I am back and looking forward to sharing the views yet again. 

Why I cannot leave the darkness behind

What lies behind those curtains in the dark? Today’s thoughts drift away from the open windows to those that are shut up like closed doors, shades are drawn and you cannot see in just as much as they cannot see out.  What do they hide within? Some hide in fear, afraid of the evil that lurks outside.

Others hide so that we cannot see their own evil. They hide because if we began to understand them, we would loathe them. If they showed us what goes on in their world, what is hidden within their walls, we would see their guilt and take away their freedom.

Evil resides in so many hearts that we cannot always tell at first glance. The smile hides the sneer. The laugh hides the yell. Sometimes their eyes are the only ways to look within, to see their soul and to see who they truly are.

Matt-B-Dark-Window_opt1When they sit across from me I try to see, I try to judge whether they are being true to who they are or is there more. We all have secrets, pieces of ourselves which we choose not to share with the world, keeping them hidden unless pried from our hands and our hearts. Sometimes we have to find those secrets. Sometimes the only way to solve another’s pain is to find the secret which caused it. Peeling back the layers of their mind until they are laid bare, nothing left to hide and hope beyond hope that there is nothing there, no memories of terror, either inflicted or received.

I am good at peeling away those layers. I am good at helping them to see why they should trust their secrets to me. I am good at helping others to find justice in an unjust world.

I am not good at hiding the results away. I am not good at closing the window and keeping the voices quiet in my head after hearing the screams for so long. I am not good at remembering those who I have helped and forgetting those who I have failed. Some hide behind those curtains now because I could not help them.

My secret shame is that I cannot help them all. My secret is that I forget the ones that I have helped, but never release the ones who I have failed.  Those will stay with me, behind the curtains that hide the pain within my soul.  Ignore the man behind the curtain, he only hides so that you cannot see his tears.

Spring and finding our wings

Today’s view from the window shows some signs of new life as spring is finally showing itself. The flowers are growing and the blossoms on the apple and pear trees have finally come out from their hidden cocoons.  Birds seem to sing that much louder and the sunshine seems that much brighter.  While the past few weeks have been hard, spring is a great reminder that there is something good in the wind.

Sometimes life mimics nature so very much that we can certainly learn more from Mother Nature’s story. This is especially true when looking at the way we poor human beings must think.  Sometimes we too find ourselves nestled away in a cocoon hiding from those harsh winters, a world where when the wind blows our egos and our minds may take a beating at the hands of the frightful winter.

I think of the abuse that I see every day, the children who are told that they are nothing, that they don’t deserve to live and how they are made to feel.  How can we ever expect them to spread their wings as beautiful butterflies if we do our very best to tell them that they are only worthy of being an unsightly caterpillar?

These children still smile, they can still laugh and they can still become what they were meant to be, as long as someone tells them that they belong, that they are destined for a beautiful life on wings and in the wind.  Someone still has to believe in them and smile at them and make them warm and welcome.butterfly and child

When I walk down the halls, I look not at the ones who readily smile at me but for the ones who try to hide. The ones who do their very best to blend into the walls and not attract attention. The ones who are afraid of everyone and everything.  Those are the ones that I see through the window today. These are my little angels and it is these wonderful people who I dedicate who I am every day to protecting.  I will never stop smiling at them, telling them that they have something special and reminding them that I believe in them.

I will see them not for who they are, but for who they could be. I will share with them my thoughts not about where they sit today but where they will stand someday. Like a fortune-teller who carefully hides their secret, my crystal ball shows only that I believe that they can be whatever it is that their heart desires and so much more.  My looking-glass is a mirror into their soul and it can only show the brightest light that shines within all of them.

Sometimes the hardest part of trying to be a beacon and guiding light for those in need is that you have to withstand the perilous pounding of the dangerous seas. It is never easy but it is always worthwhile.

When they fall and no one can catch them

Last night I watched out the window as the rain fell against the panes. My eyes would blink as the brightness filled the sky before the rumble slowly made its way across the valley.  I didn’t hear it though, I didn’t feel it.  My mind was fifteen miles away in a cold windowless room.  My mind was sitting with a seventeen year old who will not see the rain for many years.

When I find out that a student is arrested, I usually know them and am usually not surprised.  Sadly I know that these poor kids live a life of “lack.” They lack good role models at home, they lack someone to teach them values, they lack a way to adjust their moral compass.  I am rarely surprised.

When they told me his name, I was surprised.  He was a “good” kid. Did well in school, seemed focused and tried to avoid the drama that has become high school.  He is seventeen.  Last month he walked up to another kid in our city, stood behind him and pulled a gun from his pocket before ending the other child’s life in cold blood.


My mind cannot comprehend this one. How the vision of the quiet student can suddenly be ripped away by the sight of a cold blooded murderer.  What happened to make him into this? He wasn’t born to be a stone killer, what drove him to end two lives that day? Not only his victim, but his own life ceased. All of the opportunity, all of the possibility and all of the hope are gone now.

He doesn’t have a window. He cannot even stare out to see what the outside world looks like. I wonder if he even knows that it is raining or can hear the thunder. I wonder if he cares any longer. I wonder who mourns for him. I know that I do, not for the murderer, but the innocent little boy that he once was.

Shadows and sunlight

Have you ever watched the grass on a cloudy day and seen the way the shadows glide quietly across as the clouds block the sun’s rays?  Have you ever been looking at the sun and as soon as the shadow comes over you, you feel the chill as the air suddenly changes?  Darkness falls and you look up, waiting to see when the sunlight will again reach out to touch your skin. I believe this is so very much like my life, sitting in the shadows and wanting, desperately needing, to feel the sunshine once again on my face.

That sunshine creates life and is our natural state of being. The skies are never permanently clouded over or plants wouldn’t survive, trees wouldn’t get the light needed to grow, animals couldn’t distinguish between day and night. That sunshine is meant to touch your face.  It is meant to make the flowers bloom.  It is meant to be the giver of life.

sunshine in clouds

Those clouds remind us that we sometimes need rain.  That storms will come and they will pass.  In the middle of the storm we may wonder if it will ever end, if we will survive the deluge.  Then it ends and we begin to heal.

My week has been filled with shadows and sunlight.  So many times I looked out the window needing to see the sun but only met with the darkness of the clouds shadow.  Somehow the sun knew my breaking point and just when I wanted to yell at the world out of my window, the clouds broke and the sunshine came gliding across, sliding up my body until I had to close my eyes. Just let myself feel its warmth. Feel enveloped in warmth.

My week was filled with life and death. Some gone, left far too early in their young life. Deserving to see the sun again but now shrouded in clouds forever.  The makeshift memorial to her on the corner does little to really embrace who she was.  The cries of friends and family will not bring her back.  They will live in the shadows until they are ready to see the sun again. I can just say to them that I am sorry, I can’t tell them that the sun will shine again because right now they wouldn’t believe me.  There are times that I don’t believe me.

I walk across the street, back into my car to look out again at life through the window.  As I pull away, the sunshine breaks through the clouds and reminds me.

When the tears no longer come…

What happens when the tears just cannot come any longer?

Sometimes I hold her at night and stare out of the window, hoping that they will come. Hoping that somehow the silence will be broken by my own whisper, my own quickened breath as I can feel the tension finally give way and the sting begins in my eyes.  I want them to come, I need them to come. I need to feel something, I want to feel human again.

I cannot see what I see and lose myself. I cannot sit there in the corner and watch this drama unfold upon these innocent creatures and not feel anymore.  Why can’t I cry? Please God remind me that it still works, that my heart hasn’t finally broken.

He was four years old. The blood was still visible on the back of his pants when they brought him to me.  I knew the older boy he had been with and I knew, deep down inside my tortured and fleeting soul, what had happened. I couldn’t ask for a minute. I watched this boy, his mother couldn’t stop crying. I asked what had happened.  I was right and I hate when I am right.

room with no windows

Normally I try to find the window, to look out and remind myself that there is more to it than this.  I try to remind myself that there is good in the world and that I can smile at someone, that there will be no strangers today but then when I meet this little one, he will share the most intimate details of his violation and we will not be strangers.

In fact he will forever be part of me now. I will carry his pain forever. I always do.

Today there is no window in the cold hospital room. Only a curtain meant to hide the victim’s shame. It does nothing to help anyone escape the pain.  From now on he will look suspiciously at everyone as if they all know what happened to him.

I almost fall back when he describes what happened. The boy who did it. The memory comes back to me like a painful bolt.  It was just four years ago when he sat before me and shared his pain. His mother had been addicted to drugs and had always been high. He and his brother were in the back of the car and watched as their mother ran down two of their classmates on the street. They heard the innocent children cry and scream and then stop suddenly as the car came to rest upon both of their small now lifeless bodies.  They watched as their mother jumped from the car and ran away. They never saw her again after that day. She still sits in jail.

I had to try to put his pieces back together.  I had to listen then and comfort him.  Try to explain why we had to handcuff his mother and why she went away.  He cried then but then, after a while his tears just stopped.  His face lost its emotion. Became cold and almost robotic.  I lost track of him for a while and today, today I must find him again.

The cries of the boy as the nurse looks at him rush me back to the here and now. I have to leave, I can’t breathe.  I run for now. I will find the other but not tonight. Tonight I need to lie in her arms and cry.

They never come. I fall asleep and they never came. She held me tightly before I slept and I know she would make them go away but they didn’t come. Is it possible to run out of tears? Is it possible that the last straw finally snapped and the now fragile frame of my once whole emotional self finally gave way?

I pray not. There will be others and I still need to care. I still need the tears to come just as a release. Maybe tomorrow they will come. Maybe tomorrow will be different.


Sharing your smile, showing you care.

Tonight as I look out my window I am greeted by the vision of so many other faces staring back at me. My thoughts fly into their rooms, behind their window and to what they are seeing and what they are hearing. Do they use their time at the window as a place to think about life or for them is it an escape from the boredom, fear or even terror that represents their own lives? If we could listen at their open window would we hear parents yelling in anger at each other? Would we hear the silence of loneliness and hopelessness?

faces on a trainHave you ever scanned the faces on the train? What are they thinking? What are they dreaming about? What is their existence like? Did they have supportive parents who spoiled them and told them every day how much they cared?

Normally in my work I encounter people who have been the victim of horrible acts of violence, usually physical or sexual, and are struggling to forget what they went through and try their best to become “normal” kids again.  Then once in a while we encounter some poor souls who have endured some of the worst possible emotional trauma. Last week it was one whose guardian had told her that she was no longer wanted and she should go to school and tell school that she wasn’t wanted any longer.

You may well notice that I said “guardian” as her parents were in jail or in drug rehab so she had been abandoned by them before she was seven and now at nine she had encountered yet another sense of loss.  Our wonderful state run family service agency arrived to tell the girl how it was her own fault for not following rules and that she deserved to go into foster care. He apologized to the school, saying that the child must be a handful.

This is when my thoughts from the window of him turned to throwing him physically out of one.  I calmly explained that she was actually a straight A student who had NEVER been in any type of trouble.  I then offered to take the child home to my family instead of foster care.  We are waiting to see if that occurs but my thoughts tonight go out to those nameless faces and whether some have felt that abandonment, that sense of loss.

How horrible it is for a child to feel unloved. While teachers and others may strongly remind them daily that they can be or do anything when they get older, they still come home and feel hopeless. Every baby is born with the need to be cared for, to be loved.  We never lose that need. The older we get the desire grows stronger.  We need to feel that another human being cares and values us.  How can we ever get them to believe in themselves? Society has told them that those closest to them should love them unconditionally.  Society has lied to them so they no longer trust those lies.

I hugged her before I left and hugged her again the next day when I stopped in to visit.  As I look out those windows, I want to reach out and hug them all. I want to say that I value them, even if no one else has.  I cannot solve all the problems but I can add a smile and a hug or a handshake to those who have not felt that warmth.

Share your love today. Look at the person in the car next to you on your dull commute.  Did they have a rough night alone or leave the house with no one showing them that they even cared? Give them a nod and a smile.  How many times have you smiled at someone and not received a smile back?  Rarely right?  Smiles like yawns are contagious.

woman waving in the window part 2Make sure there are no strangers today. Instead of just seeing a person taking your order, take time to look at their face and their name tag.  Thank them by name.  Make a difference where you can.  And as you look out the window, smile at those nameless faces, wave at them.  Make the world a little smaller and a little more welcoming.

Life is not about our simple existence, life is all about living. Live life in a way that brings comfort and joy to those you encounter. Bring joy and not pain.  Then you can look out your window at night and thank God for the chance to make a difference yet another day.  Then smile and close your eyes, you will have another chance tomorrow.