For months, it is as if someone has been standing over us shouting, ‘LOOK OUT! Don’t touch that’. ‘LOOK OUT! Don’t stand there.’ ‘LOOK OUT!’ Don’t go out.’ LOOK OUT! Don’t walk that direction.’ ‘LOOK OUT! Don’t buy that’. ‘LOOK OUT! Don’t visit with them’. ‘LOOK OUT! LOOK OUT! LOOK OUT!’
To quiet the voice, we stayed home, we followed the rules, we physically distanced, and we prayed it would end. We did it because it was the right thing to do for the health of our society. This is not, however, a recipe for a healthy life. It was simply a diet we had to put up with for a time. We’ll likely have to hop back on and off it a few more times before we get it figured out. All I know is it has been so refreshing to not be bombarded with LOOK OUT! so much this week.
When Brenda and I decided to go hiking on Tuesday morning, we chose to continue listening to the LOOK OUT! warning as we drove individually to the trail head. But once there, it was easy to slip into a comfortable two metre distance apart as we made our way up the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, and the LOOK OUT voice disappeared. We’ve had a lot of rain this spring. The forest is brilliantly green, the little wildflowers are bursting with bloom and the air is fresh. The muddy ground meant we really had to watch our footing in places and we each found ourselves with a ‘soaker’ a time or two on the way. Every once in a while, we could look away from our feet and out over the view. ‘Look out there’, we might say. And we would pause to take in the beauty. When we reached the summit (for the first time, since we got a bit turned around and hit it again later!), we stopped and plopped down on the soft ground for a snack and rest. We didn’t really have to say much. It was perfect just to sit. And to look out!
This kind of looking out felt so different, so much better than the LOOKING OUT I’ve been doing for the past three months. As I sat with Brenda, I recognized I need this too. I need to look out, to look outside of myself, to look toward others, toward opportunities, toward possibilities and to see a world larger than my own. The view looking out from our little mountaintop reminded me of all the things waiting for me when the pandemic is over. From this perspective, I could feel hope replacing some of the fear.
As we made our way back down the foothills, and we began to tire, we automatically began to recognize we had to take extra care with our steps. It would be so easy to have a mis-step, to stumble or to fall. If we noticed a bit of rock or rough terrain, we would remind each other gently to ‘look out’. As my mind quieted, I also thought of how we are needed to not only warn each other to look out, but also to take it upon ourselves to look out for others. This kind of looking out feels like a whisper to me. It is done inside of ourselves and comes from a place of kindness and love.
When we look out in this way, we are taking a few seconds to do something to put the needs of others above our own needs. Sometimes this takes no longer than a second. Sometimes the effort is more sustained. Looking out can be a phone call. It can be a smile or a wave. It can be noticing we haven’t seen someone in a while and checking in on them. Looking out can be the bracelet I received in the mail from my sister; the one engraved with ‘Whenever you feel overwhelmed, remember whose daughter you are, and straighten your crown’.
Looking out can be standing up for someone who is unable to do so for themselves. Looking out can be standing with someone. Looking out can be listening quietly. Looking out in this way does not give us power over someone else. In fact, it helps leave the power with the person we are looking out for. By looking out for others we allow them to become their very best. We allow them to focus on blossoming. It takes nothing away from us, and adds greatly to the world.
This week, as I’ve watched little Ben, I’ve been doing lots of looking out. I’ve had to look out for his safety as we’ve explored new playgrounds. But I’ve also tried to look out to see the world from his point of view. We’ve looked out at bulldozers filling dump trucks and cranes lifting heavy loads. I’ve loved all of it. But more than anything, I’ve loved looking out for him. I love thinking of little invisible ways to help him feel successful, to help him feel safe and secure so he can explore his world, to feel confident, and to become himself.
The LOOK OUT!’s we’ve had during the pandemic needed to be in place. They too, were designed to allow us to have the chance to live to experience our best lives. Looking out from mountaintops and from car windows allow us to see what is possible. And gentle looking out, reminds us we are not alone on this journey and we are all better when we are each our best.
My inquiry for you this week is, ‘LOOK OUT!? Look out!? or Look out?’
Elizabeth is a certified professional Leadership Coach, and the owner of Critchley Coaching. She is the founder and president of the Canadian charity, RDL Building Hope Society. She works with corporations, non-profits and the public sector, providing leadership coaching. She creates and facilitates custom workshops for all sizes of groups. She has particular expertise in facilitating Strategic Plans for organizations. Contact Elizabeth to learn how to look out.