Do you see this prisoner? Meeting with Sing Sing seminarians

A minister who works with youth has one primary goal: she wants the youth to feel truly seen. If someone is particularly grumpy, the minister will say, “She just wants to be seen in her unhappiness.” If someone has drifted away from the church, she’ll offer this explanation: “I don’t think he felt seen here.” As she says, “You can’t fake truly seeing another person. People know if you really see them or not. When you truly see them you find their note, their vibration, their connection with God, and you dance with them right there.”

But it’s not always easy to see another. Sometimes we can observe someone and still not see him or her. To see someone in the fullest sense requires a receptivity and openness to the other—just who he is, as he is—that often is beyond us.

One day I stood with my friend Lillian Daniel in front of the enormous front door of a big house in a suburb of New York. In some ways it looks like a gracious manor house that has seen better days. From where it is perched, there is a privileged view of the majestic Hudson River, the same river that has inspired so many artists and once drew the Roosevelts, Vanderbilts, and other famous families to build grand mansions on its banks.