Our family has a board game called, “Scrutineyes – the game of closer looks”. There are hundreds of images on each board, some are easily identified while others are hidden and take time and concentration to locate. The game resembles the actual definition of the word scrutinize: to examine or inspect closely and thoroughly. A few Fridays ago I drove to Sola, my favorite coffee shop here in Raleigh, for my weekly ritual of writing. I asked God to help me be alert and notice people. Fridays are a favorite for me. I pack up my writing paraphernalia and set up camp at Sola, praying I will be inspired to write something meaningful. My routine is to choose the biggest shared table, position my ear buds, put on tunes, and write. I love that one long, simple, wooden table there. I can sit near others and be lost in my own independent assignment, yet somehow still be connected. In case you are wondering why I leave a quiet house to drive to a noisy coffee shop and then put in ear buds to dull the noise so I can write, all I can say is I need people around me to be inspired, and in that setting I am less distracted than I am at home.

As I assumed my working position, I remembered my heart-to-heart in the car, when I had asked God to open my eyes and ears to others that day. I looked to my right and surprisingly there was a lady looking right at me, no phone in hand, no book to read, no distraction. I said hello, and thus began an hour of conversation with a new friend, Molly. This new friend connected me to another new friend that I sat and talked with for an hour a few weeks later. Two individuals I would never have met if I had stayed on task and been fully consumed with my very important work. That almost sounds like a great excuse for procrastination (but, that’s for another blog).

God opened my eyes and helped me to look closely into her eyes as we exchanged stories, and made a connection. After she said goodbye and went on her way, I turned back to the task at hand with a smile and a great feeling of accomplishment. Just as my pencil touched the sheet of paper and I heard the first note in my ear, I looked up just in time to see a young man sit down right across from me, and smile.

There were plenty of private tables open, but he sat right there and just looked at me. So, I said “Hello, that’s a great sandwich you’ve got!” He smiled and began to talk. He was a young guy in his twenties who just wanted to chat with someone, even a gray-haired grandma. He asked me if I knew that people came to coffee shops to talk. I had to silently chuckle. Who knew!? We talked for about thirty minutes and then he headed out to begin his day. By now I just slowly picked up my pencil and scanned the room to see if there was anyone else on the agenda for the day. After I felt confident I was done, I put a few words on a page and called it quits.

I did not accomplish my quota of words on paper that Friday morning, but I do believe I exceeded the number in spoken ones to new friends. Instead of writing my blog that morning, others wrote a story in my heart. I listened to new thoughts. I gazed at new faces. I heard unfamiliar voices. And I am enriched because of it.

I pray, wherever I am, I can remember to look up and notice the sweet faces standing right next to me hoping someone would notice them, and maybe just say, “Hello!”

As you head out for your commitments each day, please remember to ask God, “Who needs me to notice them today?” And then get ready, because your plans may change (for the better!)

“Be alert. Discover creative ways to encourage others and to motivate them toward acts of compassion, doing beautiful works as expressions of love.”


SHERRIE SMITLEY  |  Wife. Mom. Friend.