Monday, October 21, 2013

People Matter

Image courtesy of Spekulator

In their book The Big Book of Jewish Humor (HarperCollins, 1981), authors Novak and Waldoks tell of a woman from New York who, on her 80th birthday, decided to prepare her last will and testament. She went to her rabbi to make two final requests. First, she insisted on cremation.

“What is your second request?” the rabbi asked.

“I want my ashes scattered over the Bloomingdale’s store.”

“Why Bloomingdale’s?”

“Then I’ll be sure that my daughters visit me twice a week.”

I know we can't ensure others will show they care in the way we expect, though we all want to know that people do care. Maybe it's about being assured that we are not alone in this world. For that reason, we are drawn to those who make us feel as if we matter.

My grandmother was such a person. She was someone who made me feel important to her. She lived far away, so visits were special. When we got together she acted as if she truly missed me. Some days she would slip me little gifts – like chewing gum, a homemade cookie or money “so you can buy yourself a treat.” She once whispered that I was her favorite. (I now have evidence that she said the same thing to each of her grandchildren, which still causes me to chuckle.) She made the effort to be present at the important times in my life.

I felt valued by her. She took me seriously. At age eight or nine I complained one day that I had trouble breathing and I said that I thought my nasal passage was somehow blocked. She actually put her finger up my nose to feel for an obstruction. (Did I mention she was blind?) There was a blockage and because of her intervention with my family I eventually saw a doctor and had corrective surgery.

I don't remember her ever telling me how much she cared about me. It just wasn't her way. She wasn't gushy and she didn't often say those things to people. But she told me how she felt in a different way – she noticed me. She paid attention to me. I felt as if I were a piece in her life puzzle and she would notice if I were missing or didn't fit in just right. And my awareness of this made a huge difference.

Poet Maya Angelou writes:

“People will forget what you said
People will forget what you did
But people will never forget how you made them feel.”
I wonder what would happen if I set out to make everyone in my presence feel as I felt around my grandmother – like they matter. How would that change the way I treat others and what difference might it make to them?

Who doesn't want to know that we notice them and value them? And who might respond to us better when they feel that they matter?

It probably cannot be overstated – it matters...that people matter.

-- Steve Goodier

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