Jeremy Statton

Living Better Stories

How To See the Beauty of the World

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The alarm rang, and though it was early, I had not been so excited to get up in a long time.

I quietly got out of bed and prepared for the day. Sunglasses. Hat. Sunscreen. Water. And camera.

It was still dark outside and would be for another hour. When I stepped outside of the room the darkness enveloped me like the blanket in my bed just minutes before. The four of us climbed into the Toyota Prado. We drove down to the gate and met our guide.

This man, bearing an AK-47, climbed into the back of the car. We made aquaintances as you do when a stranger carrying a semi-automatic rifle climbs into the back seat.

And then we set off for a safari into the African plain.

As we drove into the wilderness, the sun started coming up. There were different shades of pink and purple. Of orange and red. To the east was Uganda our hotel and our friends. To the west was Lake Albert. And on the other side of the lake, the Congo.


photo by me

The beauty was overwhelming. The water buffalo who stopped to stare at us, partly frustrated by the interruption. Partly curious at the strangeness of us.

The elephants keeping their distance. Large ears flapping in the wind. Trunks reaching in all directions for food to eat, gentle enough to eat a peanut but strong enough to rip me in two.

And the three legged lion, a victim of a poacher’s snare. Though disabled, still very capable. Still dangerous. Not interested in a conversation with us he hopped away, probably irritated that his beautiful quiet morning was interrupted.

Abraham, the 3 legged lion.

Abraham, the 3 legged lion.

But the most powerful element I experienced was not the sunrise or the animals, but the quiet. We were miles from “civilization.” There were no other people anywhere to be seen. There were no buildings. There were no other cars. Just us and the land and the animals. And the quiet.

I soaked in this stillness, like a young boy collecting tadpoles in a jar, hoping to save them for later.

You Have to Experience it To See it

On my trip to Uganda, I had the chance to take a safari into Murchison Fall National Park. I wanted to describe to you the beauty that I saw. The animals. The land. The lion. And the quiet.

But as I wrote this short narrative, I understood one thing too clearly. My words could never convey to you what I felt. Even photographs are limited in their ability to convey the beauty.

How do you describe a stillness that penetrates to the depth of your soul?

As I considered what to do, I realized that I couldn’t. And that in order for you to understand, you would just have to go see it yourself.

Maybe my words could entice you. Maybe they would convince you that the traveling and the heat and the strange food and the less than comfortable beds are all worth it.

But the only way to actually understand the beauty is to go and see it.

How to See the Beauty of a Person

This seeing is believing phenomenon doesn’t just happen with nature, but it also happens with people.

Perhaps this is the most important lesson of going to another place, experiencing another culture, and meeting new friends. We can’t be friends when there is distance. We can’t be friends until we enter the same place. We can’t understand until we are there.

We will never see the beauty of another person unless we spend time with them.

Until we sit down with another person and enter their story, sharing their joy or wiping away their toys, we will never know who they truly are.

It is much easier and safer to keep our distances from others. As long as their problem is a theory. As long as their need is a concept, it remains easier to ignore. It is easier to blame them for the mess their life has become.

But when we see the person, when we let ourselves become their friend, then everything changes. Their problems become our own. Their need becomes something we desire to see met. Their persecution becomes something that needs to be stopped.

The only way to see the beauty in a person is to meet them where they are, no matter where that is. (Tweet that.)

It Won’t be Pretty at First

Meeting them where they are will be dirty. It will be uncomfortable. It will give us the “heebie-jeebies.” It could cost us something. It might even hurt.

But when we choose to do this, we will discover the true beauty of that person. We will stop seeing their problems. We will stop seeing what annoys us about them. We will stop feeling that they are the enemy.

And we will see their beauty. We will see their value.

And perhaps we can begin to love them.

Have you ever discovered the hidden beauty of another person?

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About Jeremy Statton

Jeremy is a writer and an orthopedic surgeon. When not ridding the world of pain, he helps you live a better story. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook or Google +.

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19 Replies

  1. Wow. As hard as it is, sometimes I love traveling into the life of another and hearing his/her story. Words can never tell it as well as she/he does seated right there in front of you.

  2. Exactly. It changes everything when we become friends. I just added a picture of the lion to the post, make sure you go back and look at that.

  3. Thanks. I had seen it on Instagram and wondered why you didn’t include it here. 😉

  4. Oh, this is my dream–an African camera safari. Ever since I was a child. To enter that place and drink it all in, let it settle deep. I took my first out-of-country mission trip in December–to Haiti. Not my first choice. I’d wanted Kenya. But I fell in love with that place and with those people because I’d entered their story, and they became part of me.

  5. Man, I wish I could’ve joined you for this trip.

  6. Uganda is on my bucket list. We sponsor a Compassion child from there. I love this post, as it is so true for those right around us too. We do not really know or understand until we become a part of their story. It is messy, but always worth it.

  7. So good! I understand exactly what you mean, I wrestled with that truth when I came home from Serbia. I could never truly convey the hope that shimmered and danced in the air or the depth of need that made hope so valuable. My son and I were praying today for a little boy I met in Serbia. We were praying for that very reason, because I had entered his space and his needs have wound around my heart. I wonder if each of us are going and seeing, being affected, making friends, if this great big world will start to look different.

  8. How you describe it is perfect. This kind of seeing will wound our hearts.

  9. Making that trip, especially to meet your Compassion child, will blow your mind and your heart. Do it.

  10. Isn’t that amazing, how it entered your heart? I’ve done a safari in Kenya, too, and Kenya had more animals to see.

  11. Sounds like a plan for the future.

  12. Robin Woodall

    What a great message – thank you!

  13. Wow, Jeremy. What an incredible journey. Your words are beautiful

  14. It’s hard to imagine the quiet you talked about. I think that’s one of the appealing features of God’s peace – it brings quiet to our souls when the world around us is full of noise.

  15. My life is incredibly noisy, so the quiet was beautiful to me.

  16. Mike Zserdin

    Makes me think wounded people are like the three legged lion–capable and dangerous. Well said Jeremy. Thank you.

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