Our eyes tell stories better than words could possibly describe. Within each of us is a formidable history of emotional depth and variation. Tales of triumph and pain, sadness and laughter, despair and optimism. We hold on to some of those from our past and others are formed in the present, while we allow both to shape our beliefs for the future. They weave together in a pattern so intricate, it is difficult to fully capture its complexity in words.
But our eyes tell the story in its entirety.
More significant than feelings of happiness and sadness, like when we laugh or cry. More complicated a reason than when they narrow as we wince in pain or widen in surprise. Eyes reveal more about us than we may realize. Silently, they tell our story, often before we are aware of the tale being told of ourselves.
And the greatest story eyes can tell is one of hope.
There is a light, an indescribable glimmer in the eyes of a person who sees greater days ahead. They may not yet be conscious of it but their eyes already know. Their words and attitude may not match their outlook but again, the eyes know the truth. It wasn’t until I looked into eyes missing that light did I realize its significance.
I was privileged to work with street youth for several years in Hamilton, ON (shout out Living Rock!) and I say privileged because more than I helped them, they ministered to me. I witnessed resilience and determination in the face of some of the most difficult circumstances. Some were homeless, others saddled by drug addictions, and others were involved in the legal system, but with each individual, I could see in their eyes the distance between them and the street.
The street offers no hope.
Poverty and homelessness are dreary circumstances. There is little room for optimism when each day is spent panhandling or sourcing free meals. I could see the impact of our work as we journeyed with youth to find stable housing, employment, and towards self-improvement. The initial darkness in their eyes reflected their bleak situation but as they moved further from the street, the light grew in intensity.
Hope is unmistakable.
I was reminded of this on a recent trip with Compassion to Honduras. Our team spent several days at child development centres, talking to project staff and pastors and of course, spending time with hundreds of children. On one of the long drives between centres, we stopped at a plaza overlooking a beautiful lake for a photo opportunity. Our bus obviously caught the attention of the locals and before long there was a mariachi band serenading us as we tried to capture the picturesque view.
As I hurried back to the bus there were children running towards us, reminding me of the rural villages we had been visiting all week. I smiled as they approached–excited to meet some new little friends–but as I reached out to greet them I realized this was not the same as before. These children weren’t looking for a hug or high-five, they were trying to sell souvenirs. As they shrewdly dodged my outstretched arms I witnessed something I will never forget.
Their eyes were different than the ones I saw before.
They couldn’t have been more than 10 years old but I knew that look well. Those children were lost in the street. The misery of poverty was evident in their eyes as they desperately tried for a sale. I sat quietly on the bus for the rest of the drive, feeling confused and heartbroken over what I had witnessed. I had seen that darkness in teens and young adults before, but to see it in the eyes of an innocent child hurt my heart in ways I can’t explain. Their faces are forever engraved in my memory.
I was, and still am, overwhelmed by their hopelessness.
But off we went to the next child development centre to visit with children who were sponsored through Compassion. They are loved and supported, nourished and taught, to hopefully break the cycle of poverty that imprisons countless others. The children at the project are different. Their hearts are softer, open to give and receive love; smiles and laughter abound, their childhood innocence restored; mindsets shifted, they look towards and plan for a brighter future. But their eyes tell the greatest story of them all.
Eyes full of light, full of hope.
I hope the next time I visit Honduras I see those same faces I saw in the street but next time, I hope to see the light in their eyes.