The Common Good

Hidden Pictures

As a child, I thought the only good part of going to the doctor’s office was getting to read the "Highlights" magazine in the waiting room. The "Hidden Pictures" page was my favorite. You‘ve probably seen it. There’s an intricate line drawing that has small pictures cleverly embedded within the big picture. The challenge is to find them. There’s a list of the hidden pictures, and you search to find the comb that’s blended into the girl’s bangs, the carrot concealed in plain sight as part of a spoke in a wheel.

Artistic rendering of earth from the moon. Image courtesy Ollyy/
Artistic rendering of earth from the moon. Image courtesy Ollyy/

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A few are easy to find. Most take some effort. Usually, there’s one or two so well concealed that you begin to wonder if they’re actually there. You turn the picture sideways or upside-down. Your eyes scan every part of the page over and over. Finally, you recognize it and marvel: It was right there! You had looked directly at it many times, but your brain didn’t recognize what you were seeing until the last time that you looked.

That lesson stuck with me. Don’t we all overlook things that are right in front of our eyes? Don't we all fail to recognize what we see?

Prophets come along and remind us that we need to look: to recognize what’s going on all around us; to see more and more of creation until we are overwhelmed by it; to stop overlooking the injustices and the pain in the world and start doing something about them.

Stop. Look. Recognize. Respond.

Our assumptions can blind us to what’s really there. We fail to recognize a needy person as our brother or sister. We lose sight of our interconnectedness. Instead, we look through the limited lenses of our ideologies and theologies and convince ourselves that we know and see everything. All the while, we’re missing out on so much that’s right in front of our eyes. We don’t notice the many opportunities that appear each day to love and to heal. At times, love can feel as hidden as the comb or the carrot. But it’s always there, right in plain sight. We just have to force ourselves to focus and see it again.

This is where faith—however you choose to define it—comes into play. We look for the comb and the carrot because the directions tell us they’re part of the picture. If we don’t believe the directions, we don’t look and we don’t find. We never recognize what‘s there. Faith challenges us to keep looking until we recognize. We’ll never see everything or recognize everything. Our brains are too small, our understanding too limited. The search is what matters, and keeping an open mind about what we might find. That’s how we grow. We find a few more things each time we look. Things that have been right in front of our eyes all along.

This month, we recall the first lunar landing and see all over again those amazing photos of the Earth taken from the moon. It's a reminder that ultimately, the challenge for each of us is to look—to really look—at that photo and to see God in it.

Joe Kay is a professional writer living in the Midwest.

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