It blows my mind how little we truly pay attention to the world around us. We see things constantly around us and never seem to truly recognize them. That is, until we have to. More often than not, we don’t recognize the beauty of people we see and interact with on a daily basis until that routine changes. We are more likely to notice the absence of things than we are to notice the presence.

Let me give you an example. Exactly two months ago, on Sunday, April 22nd, there was a shooting at a Waffle House in Antioch, TN. Most of the time, we see shootings on the news and recognize the tragedy of the situation. We recognize that change needs to happen. We pray for and send healing thoughts to the families of victims and move on with our days. Or at least that is what I typically do. However, this one made me pay attention. This one hit far too close to home. This one changed my life.

I hate admitting this, but it’s only fair that I do so. Before this tragedy, I obviously knew that I saw the people in my cohort on a daily basis. There never was or ever will be a doubt in my mind that this group of people is made up of beautiful souls who I care about quite deeply. However, I never sat down to think about this. I never took the time to tell them that seeing each of them brought joy to my life each day. I never looked at each of them individually and came up with a list of what specific qualities they possessed that I felt made each of them a good social worker, friend, and person. In the back of my mind, of course I knew all these things, but, despite the fact that I was reminded of these things every single day, I never took the time and energy to express them.

That is, until we were missing someone. One of the victims of this shooting was someone I saw every single day. If I was on campus, I was spending time with her. When DeEbony passed away, we all started talking about our favorite things about her. We spoke about memories of her, some from in class and other from out of class. We talked about her personality and what it was that made her the girl we knew and loved. It got me thinking about all the people in my cohort. It possessed me to make sure each and every one of them knew exactly how much they meant to me and that they brought something important into our cohort. Into the world. I was not about to let anyone else leave my sight without knowing how loved and cherished they are.

There are so many things going on in the world around us. It is easy to get caught up in the daily hustle and bustle. There are so many things that we let slip right by us. We rarely take the time in our busy lives to recognize the beauty of the world around us. We rarely take the time to slow down the pace of each and every day to notice the details surrounding us daily. Before the shooting, I never realized how many Waffle Houses there are in the Nashville area. Now, however, I pass them on a regular basis and I’m reminded of DeEbony each and every time.

Seeing a Waffle House may not be an important part of your day. In fact, its probably something you will drive right by and not take a second glance at. You won’t think anything of it. But, for the love of god, please don’t do that to the people you are surrounded by. Don’t let yourself get so caught up in your busy life that you can’t see the amazing people you see on a regular basis.

Stop and notice the beautiful people around you. Notice everything about them. Observe the way they enter a room, their personality, their likes and dislikes. See their bright smiles and the way their eyes light up when they talk about their passions. Detect when they’re having an off day and be proud of the fact that you have been paying enough attention to know what to do to help them feel better. And, please, please, please, don’t let anyone leave your sight without making sure they know how much they mean to you. Tell your friends you love them, remind your coworkers to drive safely, let your classmates know that they are appreciated. Take the extra bit of time to appreciate those around you. As morbid as it sounds, you never know when it may be your last chance to express your love and appreciation for those around you. Please don’t let that chance slip through your fingers. And to you, yes, you, the one reading this, you are loved and appreciated and I am so glad you are here in this world.

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