It’s Not About the Setting. It’s About the Seeing.

 [KOSU Commentary]

Oklahoma City Arts Festival | Brown Paper and Two Women Smoking

At the Oklahoma City Arts Festival this past spring, I took a picture of a painting of a woman smoking a cigar wrapped in brown paper. When I got home and I downloaded the picture there in the frame was a lady walking by. She was smoking a thin cigarette wrapped in brown paper. I had not even noticed that there were two people smoking in my picture.

People often ask me what settings I use on my camera. There is no polite or humble way to tell them it is not about the setting. It’s about seeing.


In the fall of 1985, Sammy gave a dollar to every student in our speech class at Southern Nazarene University. “I realize so much joy in giving to the homeless,” he said, I want you to experience it, too.” The dollar was clipped to an envelope addressed to a mission in New York City. Sammy had volunteered there over the summer.

I knew something about this. In the 1970s, my father had taken our family on many trips to a mission in downtown Los Angeles. Ministry to the homeless was in my DNA, and Sammy was now in my heart forever.

But, Sammy graduated a few years before me, and I really never got a chance to know him, and I more or less did not see him for 15 years, And, then one day in the fall of 2000, I ran into him in the basement of the government building where I had just started a new job.

At the time, a rare fog filled both our lives. We were flying through the same unfortunate cloud, acidic beads of disappointment falling on our shoulders. It was like that Proverb. We might make our plans, but God orders steps. I had interviewed for three different jobs at three different government agencies that fall — all located in Sammy’s building.

And so it came to pass that Sammy and I became fog lights for each other. Our friendship briefly pierced the dense night and saved us not from, but for something. The last time I saw Sammy was 11 years ago. I was standing on his porch in October and he was holding a pumpkin.

Four years later, my husband and I move into a house just two blocks to the west, and the following month we brought home our baby boy from the hospital. And so now you see, this story isn’t about Sammy at all. It’s about the family I have now.

In his poem, Autumn, Garrison Keillor writes,

“All that we did for love’s sake, Is not wasted and will never fade.”

I want to tell you about Jeff, Who Lives At Home. He is a 30-something, pot smoking slacker who regards certain information that he receives as signs.

“Everyone and everything is interconnected in this universe,” Jeff says. “Stay pure of heart and you will see the signs. Follow the signs, and you will uncover your destiny.”

On Friday night, I rented Jeff, Who Lives At Home, from the Red Box at the Walgreen’s on 23rd and Classen. I’ve returned it, so it’s there for you now.

Do you believe in signs?

It is not about the setting. It is about the seeing.

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