What if we could see?

The little prince and the fox

One of my favorite books is “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupery.  It is a great read for all ages.  Young children enjoy the story and, as we get older, we begin to see its rich symbolism and timeless messages.  My favorite part of the book is the relationship between the fox and the Little Prince.  In the end, the fox teaches the Little Prince a valuable lesson:

And he went back to meet the fox.

“Goodbye,” he said.

“Goodbye,” said the fox. “And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

What if the essential were visible to the eye?  What if we could see?

What if we could see deeper into the hearts of the people we meet?  If we saw the worry about how to stretch a paycheck that is simply too small to provide rent and food and clothes for a family would we be so abrupt, so quick to complain about a meal that is not quite right?  If we could see the sleepless nights trying to get a college paper finished while soothing a baby’s fever hoping not to get sick and miss a day of work, a day’s wages, a car payment would we be more inclined to offer a friendly smile and thank you while we wait patiently for our dessert and coffee?

What if we could see further down the path, see the consequences of our choices?  Would we stop for another fast food meal if we could see the heart attack on the horizon?  Would we dig a little deeper into our pockets to give to the homeless person asking for change if we could see the satisfied look after the first bite, first sip of a first meal today?  Would we tell our children “No” or “Yes” more if we could be sure that it was the right answer?

What if we could see the paths that our friends, co-workers, classmates have walked?  Would we be so quick to label someone “snob” or “slut” or “nut” if we understood the lessons they learned along their journey about how to connect with people or how to get their needs met or even if this is likely or possible?  Would we offer a genuine, “How are you?” and take the time for a genuine response if emotional injuries were as obvious as blood and bruises?

What if we could see how everything is connected?  Would we spend hundreds, thousands, millions of dollars poisoning the planet if every living thing that was killed for our green lawn, fancy flowers, cheap produce, juicy steak was laid in a pile at our feet?  Would we invest our hearts and hands and tax dollars into education, health care, the arts, if we could see the teacher, the doctor, the dancer, in the faces of our children.

What if we could see how my family and your family and their family have so much more in common than we ever knew?  Would we judge the single mother of 3 on welfare so harshly if we could see the inches, the one bad thing, that separates us from her.  Would we stand up, speak up, act up louder and prouder if we could see our family living with the laws and the rules that were made for those families?

“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

While our eyes may be blind to the depth and breadth of truth, we need only open our hearts to see rightly.

Leave a comment


  1. Wonderful post, Barry, and so deeply true. It calls to mind a phrase I’ve suddenly been hearing lately: people will describe a minor annoyance in their lives and then call it a “first-world problem.” Perhaps they intend it as ironic or a throwaway line, but I like to think it’s the beginning of a new awareness of just how good we in the “first world” have it and–rather than bitch about the small things–how much compassion we need to extend.


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  • Barry Sanders

    Barry is the Director of Religious Education at First Parish Church. He is also a husband and father of two, a social worker, an avid soccer fan and an aspiring harmonica player.

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