Can You See Yourself in All of Them?

She stands there, small as any eight year-old, hidden in the towering aisles of the toy store. She picks up the Magic 8 Ball and shakes it. It comes up Yes. She sighs with relief. The question asked by this little girl of this little toy? “Will I ever fit in this world?”

In her, I see me.

He hobbles forward, looking bewildered, a ten-year-old searching the crowd for help. He falls into the crushed rock and shattered shells battered by time into sand. The tender underside of his foot sliced from fore to aft. Skin parted. Blood flowing. He grits his teeth and calls it the Red Sea. He’s a little wounded and a little brave.

In him, I see me.

The teenager wakes early, before the sun, before his parents. Pours a bowl of cereal for himself. He gathers his Thermos full of ice and water, his sandwich full of turkey and cheese, and his heart full of questions and peace. He heads into the fields, into the eventually burning sun. He gives his day to the earth.

In him, I see me.

The old man moves slowly, carefully. He looks at the ground as he walks, scanning the terrain for danger. He picks his way around a rock, big as a boulder to an ant, big as a boulder to a man approaching his second century. One slip and he’s bedridden for a month, for a year. For the rest of his life? Fragile, and he knows it.

In him, I see me.

The father of two is covered in wood shavings and sweat. He’s got ten minutes to finish felling the tree. Then, he must go. To take his boy to basketball camp. To make sure his daughter isn’t staring into a screen all day. To try to keep it all together. To rest his weary bones.

In him, I see me.

The woman stands on the corner, her mouth slouched to one side, her eyes too far apart, her bra straps showing, shouting at the traffic passing by, for no apparent reason. Her words are slouched like her mouth. Something is off here, perhaps a chromosome. Her hands rest on a stroller in front of her. The baby in it hollers like her mother. A different kind of sadness.

In both of them, I see me.

The disheveled man lays on the curb, on his right side, his right arm stretched out as a pillow for his head. His resting place a street corner. His home the streets. His eyes are open but not open. Looking at him, a little boy’s heart breaks. The boy looks downward at his treasured left over food, turns around, crouches down, gives away his bounty, and enters into the gift of downward mobility.

In both of them, I see me.

The mother reaches out as her life is pulled away from her. Her little boy reaches out as his mother is pulled away from him. Their fingertips brush. They crossed the border together. She was smuggling him into a better life. Instead, abandonment was smuggled into his heart. She the failing parent. He the forlorn child.

In both of them, I see me.

He shouts at the powerful. Hypocrites, he cries, nineteen times in row. They dismiss him. So, he makes sure they cannot ignore him: he threads the whip ahead of time, enters the temple, tips the tables of the money changers who have turned the holy place into the Vegas place. A bunch of men using their power and wealth to gain more power and wealth. One man using the authority of the universe to resist them.

In both of them, I can see a little bit of me.

Then, he hangs there, his entire body a Red Sea. He hangs there, showing us that death and dignity can go together. He hangs there, showing us that how you live is is how you die, and he lived with grace. They stand there at the foot of tree, mocking him, spitting at him, slicing him. He looks heavenward and wishes forgiveness upon them.

In both of them, I can see a little bit of me.

The Republican wishes for more justice at the borders; the Democrat wishes for more mercy at the borders. The Republican wants to see unborn life protected; the Democrat wants to see unhonored life protected. The Republican wants to preserve tradition; the Democrat wants to preserve compassion. The Republican wants a job that can support his family; the Democrat does, too. Somewhere, a Republican has cancer growing in his pancreas; somewhere, a Democrat does, too. Every Republican will have to say goodbye to this one life; every Democrat will, too.

In both of them, I try to see a little bit of me.

And when you can see a little bit of yourself in both of them—when you can see at least a hint of yourself in all of them—in the words of the Wise Man, it is finished.

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In his debut novel, Kelly weaves a page-turning, plot-twisting tale that explores the spiritual depths of identity and relationships, amidst themes of healing, grace, faith, forgiveness, and freedom.

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About Kelly

Dr. Kelly Flanagan is a psychologist, author, consultant, and speaker who enjoys walking with people through the three essentials of a truly satisfying life: worthiness, belonging, and purpose. His blog writings have been featured in Reader’s Digest, The Huffington Post, The 5 Love Languages, and the TODAY Show. Kelly is the author of Loveable and True Companions.