Tell me, what would they see in your eyes?

On a downtown street in Lansing, Mich., a woman asked for our help. She was with her daughter, about 7 years old.

We could see in the woman’s eyes several things: warmth, strength, wariness. In the young girl’s, shyness. Perhaps fear.

The woman, about 30, wore a hijab. Her daughter had long, dark hair, uncovered.

There was a significant language barrier, but we managed to learn that they are from Syria and have been in the U.S. for seven months. They had walked from a nearby Catholic church, the woman said, to find Bus #5 to get to her appointment at a job-training agency.

She carried a folder with her. We walked, and I asked if there might be any information in it that could help us get them there.

As she pulled out a couple of forms from the job-training agency, I noticed a packet of penmanship worksheets, with the two solid lines and the dotted line in the middle, to help English learners make proper letters.

The agency’s forms didn’t have an address or phone number, so we asked around and were directed by a young man waiting at a stop on a different bus line.

He knew where to direct us, and as we walked away I kidded him about the rival outfits we wore — he a Detroit Tigers shirt, I a Boston Red Sox hat. He smiled, with his mouth and with his eyes.

Yes, the eyes.

We led the woman and her daughter a couple of blocks and pointed her toward the right bus stop. It was still a good distance away and I asked if we could drive her to the job-training agency.

I think the woman knew what I was asking, and she indicated they’d be fine walking. She smiled and I saw gratitude in her eyes.

We parted ways, and within moments any sense of my “do-gooder” validation gave way to anger.

My eyes welled up as I thought about the ignorant people in this country who hate this woman, hate her based on how she looks, how she dresses, how she worships.

I tried to imagine what horror this woman and child likely escaped in Syria. I marveled at the courage it takes to start over in a new country where so many people hate you. And knowing you can never go back home.

Those alphabet worksheets in her folder? I assumed they were the daughter’s, but I wonder — could they have been the mother’s?

Either way, this woman values education and is determined to learn, to succeed, to do whatever she must do for her child. I could see that in her eyes as well.

Yes, the eyes.

I put a lot of stock in what I see and feel when I look into people’s eyes. It’s “thin slicing,” I know, but my track record is pretty good. The Syrian woman’s eyes, and her daughter’s, have stayed with me since that day.

Here’s an eye test for you. Look at this short list of names below and visualize their eyes. Better yet, find several photos of each and take a good look.

I’m not going to post their pictures here because, for me, looking at those faces is like mainlining cortisol. My pulse races, my blood pressure rises, I get angry. I’m not pleasant to be around.

Jeff Sessions.

Paul Ryan.

Mitch McConnell.

Mike Pence.

Donald Trump.

Going down the list, here’s what I see in those eyes: hatred; smarmy arrogance; chronic unhappiness; darkness; intellectual vacuousness and narcissism.

The word “kindness” doesn’t make the list.

To each of those Christian white men, I say there’s a Muslim woman from Syria and her 7-year-old daughter you should meet. Tell me, what will they see in your eyes?


About Jim McKeever

Writer, father, runner, advocate based in Central New York.
This entry was posted in Irish Investigations, racism, refugees and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Tell me, what would they see in your eyes?

  1. ksbeth says:

    i love this powerful post, jim. thank you for your kindness to this woman and her daughter.


  2. Deborah Kelly Tarbell says:

    This! So much this! I pray every day that the kind people, who I know outnumber the ones with hate in their souls,will be able to turn the tide of racism….


    • Jim McKeever says:

      Thanks, Debbie … yes, strength in numbers is what’s needed. And rational thinking by individuals who know right from wrong intrinsically, not swayed by group (mob) mentality fed by lies or political expedience.


  3. I can’t speak for anyone else but me…..I believe I would have looked in her eyes. I would never be of any assistance when it comes to giving directions but I would have tried. It seems like there were a lot of kind eyes around you Jim. Yours. Hers. The Detroit Tigers guy. I think there are more eyes that show, and see, kindness than what our news agencies and such want to portray. I’m glad you did.


    • Jim McKeever says:

      Thank you, Colleen, and I know many of us would have tried to help her. If only those who hate or fear Muslims (or any other “other”) would make an effort to interact with them, attitudes might shift. As for the media, yes, there’s a lot of bad stuff out there being reported, especially the actions of people now in power. At least most of those harmful things are made public. But it’s what we don’t see reported very often that is worrisome … the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Spring 2017 Intelligence Report lays out in great detail the prevalence of hate groups in the U.S. (917 active as of 2016). One of the worst was founded by a misguided young man who I believe is from a Columbus suburb. This is the swelling underbelly of evil and hate enabled and encouraged by Trump. Scary.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It is all scary Jim. And yet at the same time, I keep reading we are existing at the most peaceful time ever. I don’t get it. Is the hate we see, seemingly more prevalent because so much of humanity is now exposed? Or have we truly reduced the kind of violence that hate creates? It’s conflicting information and so difficult to grasp. (This may be jumbled up in how I’m trying to explain it…it may be the rain deluging my brain.)

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Martha Keim says:

    Reblogged this on Martha Keim's blog and commented:
    The eyes have it, from my friend Jim MsKeever


  5. reocochran says:

    I really “see” people. I watch them and create conversations with them. I am not afraid, nor would I ever dream of being mean or hateful to another human being. I was showing my daughters a sari, an Indian woman gave me as a gift. She was married to a friend of my ex-husband. I taught her Americanized culture lessons. I scolded her husband and said he brought her here, he “owed” her knowledge of our way of living. For example, he was saying she should follow him 20 paces behind him! I told her this was not often the way in America to walk.

    This isn’t the same thing as the beautiful message of your caring actions, your wishing to help and looking into people’s eyes. You put humanity into this post, Jim. 🕊


    • Jim McKeever says:

      Thank you, Robin. We have a long way to go before each individual is viewed and treated equally, regardless of gender, race, religion, identity, socio-economic status, etc. An uphill battle, certainly.


  6. cat9984 says:

    I have to wonder how many individual Muslims they have met. It’s a lot easier to objectify a group if you don’t know many (any) of them as actual people.


    • Jim McKeever says:

      Agreed. I am among Muslims and other groups every day — students, physicians, etc. I see them as colleagues and good people, without a thought to their religion. Those who hate/fear “the other” might want to try to get to know them — as individuals. I’m not sure why that’s so difficult.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m so grateful you dropped by my place Jim and lead me back to your beautiful and powerful words. Thank you for your kind heart, eyes and soul.

    Liked by 1 person

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