Pancho's Look Of Love
Posted by Melissa Stephens on Mar 28, 2016
Little did I know the ripple of impact that invitation would have on my life.
It was at that dinner that I first came to know Pancho. I didn't have a chance to speak with him directly, but I could feel his energy as he moved about. When it came time for our circle share, we gathered in the sacred space I assume the retreat goers had congregated in all weekend. We were about 60 people around, and the shares were incredibly moving. And then it got to Pancho. He was soft-spoken, but his message of love spoke volumes. When he finished, he stated he wished to connect with each of us individually by staring into our eyes. I didn't think he could be for real, since there were so many of us there. Surely a few seconds of eye contact could not make a difference.
But it did.
An incredible thing happened. I felt the energy become even more vibrant, something I wouldn't have thought possible, as Pancho silently held the stare of each person in that circle. I waited with great anticipation for my turn like I did as a small girl when I would go to the mall at Christmastime to climb in Santa's lap. Just like those holiday memories, even though I knew many others had sat in Pancho's gaze, the moment he caught my eye I felt like the only one in the room. It was the most honest, love-filled connection I had felt in a very long time. And though the actual eye contact lasted but a second or two, the intention behind it lasts even to this day.
See, I have not always been one to be able to lift my head to meet someone's gaze. It was too vulnerable, and perhaps I still carried the residue of shame from childhood. But I have worked hard to open my eyes to all that is good in the world...and to lift them in united compassion and respect. So when Pancho said he would meet each person's gaze that night, my anticipation was not riddled with fear as it might have once been. It was expectant with hope, and I was not disappointed.
And so I am rippling that out.
As a teacher of middle-schoolers, I have been gifted with a beautiful yet fragile responsibility to support these incredible beings at a time that is so uncertain in their lives. They may put on a brave face each day, but I know the battles they fight no matter how pristine the mask they wear. So I have taken a lead from Pancho. Each morning we begin our day with a minute of mindful silence. When we open our eyes, we go around the room with our gaze and hold each other in compassion and love for a few seconds. Some of the kids do this with ease, and it warms me to know they have not yet been dealt a hand that would cause their gaze to be cast downward. Others have a harder time. Still, they are beginning to become more comfortable with allowing themselves to be vulnerable in these precious moments so they can receive the love that this eye to eye connection so brilliantly delivers each time.
So thank you, Pancho, for taking the time that evening so long ago to relay to me with your eyes what the essence of the world is truly all about.
May I do the same for my students and may they...and may they...and may they.