Wednesday, September 19, 2007

:: If I Were a Beauty Contestant ::

Julie Pippert asks, “How do I matter?” and I spend days mulling it over. I keep going back to my role as teacher, my role as mother. But those things seem so obvious. I think it over some more. I ask my husband: “If someone asked you how you matter, what would you say?” He punted: “I’d say ‘to whom?’”

Well ha ha that’s all well and good but it doesn’t help me at all. Here I am, looking for answers and you’re giving me a way to avoid the question. Gee thanks.

But then I realize: his somewhat flip answer is actually the important question. It’s not “how do I matter?” but rather “to whom do I matter, and why?”

And furthermore, there’s the question of what it means to “matter” to someone. Does it mean that said person has a reason to give a crap about my existence? Does it mean that I somehow add value to said person’s life? I prefer to think the latter, but considering the former is also instructive.

For example, there are so many ways that I add value to my son’s life. I nurture his curiosities, I provide him new perspectives, I coo with him when he wants to coo, sing to him when he wants to sleep. As he grows, I’ll be the one cultivating a strong body and mind, the one encouraging him to pursue new and exciting adventures. I’ll be the one who teaches him how to love, how to forgive, how to apologize.

But lest we forget, I matter for less “important” or “world-changing” reasons, too. I matter to Evan because I get up when he cries. I feed him when he’s hungry. I rock him when he’s cranky. He has reason to give a crap about me because I provide the daily necessities that allow him to get through each day. And while that may not seem like a lot, it is. It’s just as important as that other stuff, the “fancier” more exciting, flashy stuff.

And also: the reason I matter to my son is not that I buy him things. It’s not that I let him stay up to play with me when I know he needs to sleep. These are the things I’ll need to remember as he gets older. I matter to him for what comfort, knowledge, and understanding I can provide, not for the ways in which I can overindulge him or for the things I can buy him.

I matter in other ways, too. To my mom I matter because I send her pictures of her grandson and talk to her each day. I matter to her because I try to listen when she needs someone to listen and I try to jolt her when she needs a jolt. I matter to her because I stayed with her after she had surgery last year, forcing her to stay in bed and walking with her when it was time to walk.

To my husband I matter because I am smart, I know he’d say that. And because I try hard to let him change as he grows while still being the person who reminds him who he is and where he comes from. I matter to him because I require little but his companionship, his sense of humor, and his attention and in turn am willing to provide the same.

To my students I matter because I really believe they’re smart and I make it my goal each quarter to convince them of the same. I matter to them because I want them to succeed and I know that their lives are hard and that they need someone who helps give them strategies for making life easier.

To the world at large I matter because I try hard to take no more than I need and give what I can. I matter because I raise money for charities I believe in. I matter because I rode my bike 420 miles for AIDS vaccine research, raising more than $3500 in the process. I matter because I recycle even though recycling isn’t free here in Columbus. I also matter because I know how to mind my own business. I matter because I don’t cut people off in traffic and I don’t retaliate against people who cut me off (even if I do swear, mutter, or otherwise express frustration to myself). I matter because I try to treat others as I would like to be treated. I matter because I have a garden. I matter because I drive a Civic. I matter because I try to be an informed, intelligent citizen.

To my friends I think I matter because I am honest and, at least sometimes, funny. I matter to them because I am thoughtful and understanding. I matter because I am a good listener. I matter because I am the kind of friend who, at least sometimes, tells my friends why they matter to me.

I think we all need friends like that. And parents, sisters, brothers, uncles, neighbors, teachers, students, employers and employees. I think we all need to help people see how they matter, not just to us but to the world at large. In fact, if I were a beauty contestant (stick with me now), and someone asked me how to make the world a better place, that would be my answer: tell everyone you meet how and why they matter to you.

Do it. Do it now.


This post has been in response to the "Hump Day Hmm" prompt provided by Julie at Using My Words. Go read everyone else's responses. Do it now.


Julie Pippert September 20, 2007 at 8:45 AM  

You keep up the connections, weave a web. That does matter. A lot.

What a great post this is because it reminds us all of how valuable that is, and how easy it might be to take it for granted.

Using My Words

a. pinkroom September 20, 2007 at 3:12 PM  

Julie, you matter to me. Your blog allows me to procrastinate and makes me laugh. It also makes me think and I like to think. Your friendship matters, however infrequent our meetings. Your intelligence matters to me. The fact that you love Gilmore Girls matters to me. A lot.