I’m late getting this week’s Monday’s Penny to press, and for a frustrating reason. Turns out that, despite my best efforts, I am blind to the obvious.
My problem arose when I tried to connect to the internet at work this morning. The login screen wouldn’t take my password, no matter how many names I called it. I finally broke down and marched my computer over to the campus help desk.
“Ah-hah!” Cindy said when she opened my laptop. “I can see your problem right away.”
She pointed to a small box near the bottom of the login page. An adjustment by the IT department had resulted in a change in the settings. Once she clicked the box, I was up and running. It took maybe 20 seconds for her to fix it.
The thing is that I had noticed that small box when I first tried to login this morning. That’s odd, I thought. I don’t remember that being there. If I had stayed with that feeling a bit longer, I would have found and fixed the problem myself.
But I didn’t. I kept trying my login information, hoping that the tiny data gnomes within my computer would finally step aside and let me through. I ignored my intuition. I didn’t look closely enough.
These past several days, I’ve thought a lot about the discipline of seeing. Not the passive reception of visual stimuli, the typical practice for watching TV or driving a familiar route. I’m talking about the active effort to take in the world, to internalize it and make sense of it.
And figure out what to do with it.
At church on Sunday, we heard from several people in the Dakota Wesleyan family who had a deep lesson in seeing this summer. The team went to Uganda and Rwanda as part of a service trip organized through the McGovern Center. They spoke some about what they did, but mostly about who they met and what they learned.
That’s not at all surprising. One of the key aspects of all such trips is to yank us out of our normal routine so that we see the world–and more importantly, the people in the world–through a completely different lens. Africa, in this instance, becomes not just a shape on a map, but a real place in which real friends wait to hear from us. That changes our perspective dramatically.
But if seeing the world differently is a natural part of leaving home for awhile, incorporating the habit of perspective back into our daily routines is a much more difficult process. We are so used to seeing the world as we’ve known it that our brain takes shortcuts in processing it. We get back to the business of our lives and stop seeing the pennies in the parking lot. Or the unchecked box at the bottom of the login screen.
Or the people right in front of us.
This weekend and again this morning, I’ve been reminded how important it is to stay alert to the things–and to the people–that are the easiest to overlook. I’m reminded to look again, because the smallest things can be either the gateway or the barrier to getting connected.