Today at my UU church, the man in front of me turned to make sure that he was not in my way. (He stands 7 foot tall). The fella behind me complemented the lady behind me on her necklace. The woman in front of me smiled when she recognized me from the food pantry and then the interim minister preached about our covenant. He's new here and wanted to discuss the phrase: "Love is the spirit of this church and service is its prayer", which is what we say at the beginning of every Sunday.
The minister is engaging enough, but my mind started to wander. I started to think about love. My mind quickly flitted over the first boy I ever said "I love you" to. He was of no real consequence. My siblings called him "hair-band" and I didn't really love him, as much as the new role that he gave me as someone's girlfriend. In my family, we tell one another we love each other each time that we speak and it never seems to dillute the strength of the phrase. But my sister warned me about saying it to just anyone, specifically to hair-band, as he might get the wrong idea.
My thoughts on love quickly turned to a man who sits on the corner of Clay and Battery streets. The first time I passed him on the way to get coffee, I thought that I'd misheard him when he said "I love you", but he'd said it so genuinely that I knew what I'd heard. Thereafter, I would see him and he would say "I love you" and I would mumble some sort of thing like "aaaww". He never asked for anything and I was always on my way somewhere and he would say "I love you" and I would smile.
One day, on a different street corner, I saw that man coming out of the pharmacy that I was headed to. He staggered a moment and I felt scared for him. After all, he loves me.
I began to think about that man, and the churches covenant and I began to think of "I love you" as another way of saying "I see you". Having love in one's heart and showing it to strangers and friends means that one truly sees them and hears them, I suppose. So, thanks to that mind-wander, I know now what I can say, to that man who offers me a heart-felt "I love you" many mornings. I needn't be embarasssed or think it insincere. I can answer "I see you too."