October 1, 2013 by Caroline Leland
My favorite phrase that I learned in Argentina is “nos vemos” — a standard farewell that basically means the same as the American expression “see ya.”
The American version is short for “I will see you later.” But the Spanish version, translated literally, means “we see each other.”
We see each other. Present tense. Reciprocative. We see each other now. Maybe it extends to, we see each other always. It means that we part on the same level. We part, seeing each other the same way.
I think we all need more of this. America needs “nos vemos.”
What do you see when you look at someone? You might see a taxi driver, a businessman or woman, a punk kid, a janitor, a waitress. But how often do you really see a person?
I remember being surprised once, at the beginning of my sophomore year at UNC, when a dining hall employee sat down at my table and told me her story. She was an incredibly strong woman who had left her abusive husband and spent the last three years living in a homeless shelter, fighting for custody of her children.
Thinking about her later, I hated how surprised I had been to hear her story. I had glanced at that woman, and immediately, subconsciously, easily, I wrote her off as insignificant to my life. Whether I judged her for her standard food services uniform or because her skin was darker than mine, I saw that woman as unimportant to me. I had looked through her almost as if she didn’t even exist.
I hadn’t really seen her at all. But she saw me: she sat down and talked to me personally and openly and honestly. I’m embarrassed that at first glance, there wasn’t reciprocity in our brief relationship.
It takes stories for people to truly see each other. I didn’t see that woman in the dining hall until she told me her story and reminded me of the vulnerable, beautiful, vibrant humanity that we all share.
We all share it, but when do we take the time to recognize it?