See With Different Eyes

See With Different Eyes

Happy Holidays with a call to ‘See with Different Eyes.’
Authors write. All the time. Presently I am working on revealing book titled-Invisible People.  For a number of years my work involved giving voice to invisible people. During the last few years I applied serious research to what I knew, yet wanted valued evidence. Fortunately, or unfortunately, the research was an eye opener on a personal level.  It caused me to look at a deeper level, with different eyes. The book will reveal the details.
In the pursuit of this reality a daily reminder is supplied through the local and national media. Painful reminders of the fact we may not have advanced as humans beings. Violence seems to be the name of the game on a variety of levels.  Institutions are under siege- the church, law enforcement, even our national pastime-football.  Institutions brought down by sickening truths and others brought down by human frailty. Some deserved criticism. Some not so much. The victims suffer. The facts as presented are appalling.  Yet broad brushes become the norm and everyone and anyone associated with the institutions are summarily impacted.  They are the invisible people.
As an adjunct professor, a book I oft quote is Nickel and Dimed-walking the journey of truth about human worth and how workers are really treated.  Students are required to read Night by Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel; His account of the Holocaust and the elimination of his family. And Without Keys by Pat McDonough; becoming homeless due to circumstances beyond her control and writing about the experience through her lens, and now I will require Carol’s Alzheimer’s Journeypenned by my cousins Donald H. Ford and Carol C. Ford; the journey of Alzheimer’s and what it means to the man who loves her and the way to treat her and anyone who has this devastating disease. Treating them as a person, not a patient. The books reveal many invisible people.
In every book there are examples of how the broad brushes occur and the invisible people take on the pain. One major examples is occurring as I write. Law Enforcement. Police. While a small percentage of police officers react horrible, most do their jobs with amazing care and service. Just this week two innocent NYC police officers were assassinated while seated in their police car doing their job.
The people who are invisible make this world work. Make a difference-everyday.These invisible people, with many different skin colors, do not make the 6:00 news unless they, like the two officers are executed. They don’t make the front page of the newspaper or even on social media. Why? They are invisible. They quietly do their work.
The church, another example, has been rocked at its very foundation by tragic realities. Yet, everyday there are priests who tend to their flock, entering the church early, turn on the lights, turn up the heat, set up for Mass. He prays the Mass, visits the sick in the hospital, hears confessions and the list goes on. There are too, the faithful that attend and others who provide the faithful support- Invisible people.
Also, today as I write there are exhausted retail workers who for the last month have barely been able to function due to exhaustion. Yet, expected to smile, greet and serve the customer. One opportunity I researched was working at a big box store-retail. Did you know most are minimally trained, thrown into a situation made to fail or at least made to feel like a failure? Backbreaking work, multi tasking with little guidance or guidance with an attitude because the ‘guiders’ are themselves exhausted, only to leave that job being paid below minimum wage to travel to another and many, another to make ends meet. Often they have a family they see little because they are in survival mode every day. They do not complain. They are happy to have a job. Often the complainers are the people they wait on.  Raw evidence of what Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed wrote.
Anyone who knows me is aware of my love of cleaning. Counseling and cleaning are two of my many passions. In the hotel my family owned I cleaned and loved it. It was solitary work. Meditative. I could sing, whistle and make a difference in a space and place and at the same time, care for people. Today it is still one of my favorite ways of serving God’s people. So, I see this, too, from a unique perspective. People who clean for a living make a difference. Invisible. Yes. My experience stems from those years of cleaning and walking with those who are cleaning people.  One of my favorite cleaning woman shared her experience:
“One bottle of their alcohol cost more than the owner paid me for cleaning their three story home with pets and children.” And she went on, “I was told off twice by two residents of a building I cleaned-as I was cleaning. Yet the same wealthy people that were telling me off  were not paying me. I needed the money. I had no recourse.  The dogs and cats were talked to better than I.” She continued, “It is not uncommon for the home owner to cancel cleaning after reserving the spot I could have taken another job, then not compensating me for the time lost. Again, I have no recourse.”
Invisible people working for the terminally unique. She told me when someone is nice to her and treats her with respect and dignity she often breaks down because it is so rare. Paper delivery people. Waiters, waitresses, those who clean and fix our streets, clean our sewers, often in the middle of the night. Invisible people.
A priest friend, who for years has lived and ministered in Haiti’s Cite Soleil slum, a place overcome with roving desperate gangs, when I asked him “Father Tom, how do you do it. The danger.” My voice trailed.  He spoke without hesitation, “Annetta, I take my dog and God with me every day. We talk with the people. No, I do not take a gun. I don’t have too. All people want is to belong, to be listened too, and to be loved.” Have you heard of Father Tom Hagan on the local or national news? No. Invisible. But not to God.
As a police chaplain, one night I was involved in a ride along with a Minneapolis police officer.  A woman, well known to the police, was walking down the street. Slowly the officer pulled the squad beside her. She knew him. And he knew her. Called her by name. Street worn, thin, no teeth left. The exchange was beautiful.  Absolutely beautiful. The officer wanted to know how she was doing. She replied respectfully and with obvious love for the officer.  He, with genuine concern. “I do OK.” She said and called him by his name. “Please be careful out there.” he softly stated. Referring to the nightmare she was living in on the streets. He slowly rolled up his window and told me about the human being he just encountered. “She has lived a tough life. Addiction and all the rest. Now she is reduced to being a runner for those who do not care about her. They continue to use her ” The gentle officer ended with something that brought tears to my eyes, “We watch out for her.” She knew. And he knew that she knew.  Invisible people. Neither of these two invisible people will make the 10 news.

The other night something wonderful was on the news about cops taking children shopping. This isn’t new either. Twenty five years ago my children were the recipients of shopping with Cops at Christmas in Bismarck, North Dakota. And we never forgot it. It made our Christmas.

My father was a sheriff. He was like that.  A man who talked to people. He loved people. He used the art of persuasion Common sense. An art form doted with tender compassion.
No gun. Never carried a gun. Didn’t believe in it. He always said, “I am a peace officer.” And he lived it. He was an artist with his people. The art-knowing  and caring for ‘his people.’ And they were his people. I always called him an Andy Griffin type sheriff  who sat, often for hours, visiting with an obstinate teenager, a violent alcoholic father, a homeless person, who he always provided shelter. My father was a hero.
We lived on the Indian Reservation-Dad loved the Native American people of our county.  You knew how much they loved him when one of the honors Native people give to others is choosing those who are pallbearers at a family member’s funeral. My father was given that honor so many times I lost count. It was always precious to me when in the middle of the beautiful dark hair and brown skinned people sat my father with mutual dignity,  White hair and white skin. There was no discussion of racism. He message was you treat every human with the dignity.
I wrote about Dad on Facebook after the assassination of the two officers in NYC.  Dad died in 1998. His values and ideals did not. He continues to make an impact although he never made the national news. He did once make the 6:00 news. It was a small vignette about our town. It was priceless. Dad was interviewed about our town and responded with his characteristic belly laugh. Dad, to many, was invisible. Not to us. Not to the people of our county. I found it comforting to see many of the people in our rural South Dakota county who called my father“The Sheriff”  responds to the post. Facebook. They are who Dad called, “His people.”
 Darrell D Schneider Not a better peace officer than Harry
Penny Nehl Rinderneck I agree, fond memories of Harry. he always knew how to handle a situation, and if he couldn’t he would send you home and then you were really in trouble with mom and dad. lol
Peggy Koch I never realized he did not carry a gun. A true peace officer. He was a great man. I think of him often.
Annetta Sanow Sutton No, Peggy, he never did carry a gun and discouraged anyone who did. He didn’t believe in them. In fact, we didn’t even know he had one until we were adults and then only because he had a little one in his underwear drawer. He had it in a box with no a…See More
Peggy Koch I believe every person in the county loved him.
Nick Nicksic I was always amazed at how calmly he would handle those many situations. He was a true negotiator, who loved & respected everyone, and everyone loved & respected him. I always believed that he was the true model for the Andy Griffith TV show.
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Some people may be dismissive and say, “That would never work today”.Or “That was South Dakota.” People have not changed. Our attitude has.  Returning to a collective conscious is one way to bring us back to those timeless values. Instead of using a weapon, or with bullying, sitting down and talking.

It begins at the kitchen table. The same father, who as a sheriff, required without question, the family to be together  at the dinner table, After everyone participated in the preparing the meal, we always began the meal with prayer, It was simple. We set the table, talking while doing so, shared the day at  the meal.  It was followed  by cleaning the table, washing the dishes and preparing for the next day.

Dad once said, “We have become a nation of grazers. And it will have repercussions.” Grazing in the kitchen instead of setting at the table-talking.  It all begins at the kitchen table. And remarkably many of those invisible people sat at our table-the homeless, the cleaning lady, the cop, the alcoholic and the prisoner. Dad not only didn’t carry a gun, he also didn’t believe in locking people up. So ‘prisoners’ often ate at our table, sometimes babysat the younger children if we had a school function.  Invisible people made visible. Seen with different eyes. Invisible people, who like my Dad, made a difference in this world and continue to do so. Oh, and one of the most common discussions at that table is how athletics are important, just not the be all and end all. Dad also said when basketball began to be scheduled two nights a week, “It will be the ruination of the family because it will pull families out of their homes twice a week, then three times and then, God forbid even more.” Hum.

The beautiful things, the truths, that can happen at kitchen tables.

Dad, again, was right.

Merry Christmas.  Happy Hanukkah. Blessed Kwanzaa


Annetta Sutton

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