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Paul Graves: How you see is what you get

Dear Andy, Katie and Claire,

I mixed your names in the salutation on purpose. I wanted to see you three in a little different way (not always in age order), and mixing the names helped. Looking at people and things in different ways is a good way to clear up our heart-sight, if not our eyesight.

In a few days, I will go to the optometrist for my annual eye exam. Through a variety of tests, she will determine if my eyesight is as clear as it was last year. If it isn’t, she will make new lenses to give my eyes clearer sight.

So the eye doctor can help me with what I see. But no amount of medical testing can help me with how I see. That has to come from inside me, from my soul, from my heart. And the same is true for you kids. Regardless of how old we may be, we always see better with our hearts.

A popular expression going around these days is “What you see is what you get.” Have you said it? I have. Sometimes we use that phrase with a little attitude: “Take me or leave me, I don’t care!” Sometimes we say it to declare “I am no more than what you see me to be.” Both attitudes may be partly true. But there’s much more to us.

Here’s another way to think (and see), Andy, Katie and Claire: “How you see is what you get!” This turns the focus away from what other people see in us to what we see in others by how we see ourselves in the place where only God and we live together.

For instance, I see people of all ages – young kids, young adults and older adults – who seem only to see with eyes of fear or despair. I just spoke with a man in his 80s who says he is so distressed by the world as it is that he wouldn’t mind dying and leaving the world.

I visit with children whose lives are difficult because their parents don’t make enough money or because life at home is very difficult. Their fear, anger and quick judgments make it easy for them to project fear, anger and judgment onto people they meet.

But sometimes they meet a teacher or someone else who makes them feel safe. And how they see other people begins to change.

Another example: All around you, and maybe inside of you, you see people working hard to be “worthy” – to be part of a little group that welcomes you, enjoys you. We all want to be important to someone else. But we let our feelings get easily hurt when we focus too much on another person’s judgment of us.

What someone thinks is not as important as what we know about ourselves. When we know we are unconditionally loved by God, it is easier not to get angry or devastated when others don’t like us, or disagree with us. Your true identity comes from deep inside of you, kids! That identity is yours forever!

It is very important for that identity to be affirmed by people who are important to you – like family and close friends. But how we see ourselves – as ultimately loved by God – will help us weather those times when even our family or friends seem to be against us.

How we see ourselves helps us choose what we see in other people’s responses and reactions to us – and how we choose to respond in love to them.

Love, Grampa

The Rev. Paul Graves, a Sandpoint resident and retired United Methodist minister, is the founder of Elder Advocates. He can be contacted at

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Then and Now: Comstock Park

new  James M. Comstock, born in 1838 in Wisconsin, arrived in Spokane in time to witness the great fire of 1889 and start Spokane Dry Goods with Robert Paterson. It became the Crescent, Spokane’s premier department store for a century. He also worked in real estate and owned other businesses. He served a term as Spokane mayor, starting in 1899. James Comstock died in 1918.