February 18, 2013

You Are Important

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Thomas Leuthard
Thomas Leuthard

I wish I could have met everyone you know. I wish I could have been there to hear everything everyone ever said to you, from the grandiose proclamations to the offhanded commentary. I wish I could have written it all down for later speculation, saved it somewhere I would have been able to reference whenever needed. Then, at least, I would know who told you. I would know if it was one person or a hundred, a school bully from across the playground or a past love who wanted to hurt you one last time before you went your separate ways. Because someone told you — convinced you, even, and it seems not to have been so hard-won — that you are not important.

You apologize for things which are not your fault, even for things which hurt no one. You will bump into a table and mutter that you are sorry to have hurt it, you will excuse yourself. If you happened to cross a stream of particularly rude passerby, you would hold the door open for hours on end, never entering the building yourself. There is a part of you which seems embarrassed to take up space, as though you don’t deserve the things you touch, the air you breathe, the chairs you sit on. You feel as though there is always a way to be more accommodating, less of an intrusion. But you are not intruding, you know. You never are. There is a way you move, a way you take up your space in this world (the space to which each of us is entitled, never more) that makes me wish I could be more like you. I feel boisterous, even occasionally oppressive. You are always kind, always humble, always so deserving of being there.

We are undeserving. It is we who are graced by your presence, and your generosity. You feel as though you need to give more to this world to earn your keep — that your being a kind person and deferring to others is somehow not enough — but that is ridiculous. It seems that you are just one of those rare, beautiful people who err a bit on the shy side, who assume the best in people, and who always move just slightly to the side of the stage so as not to compete for the spotlight. But you should have the spotlight, it should be turned to you. Its glow should cradle your face, and there should be a round of eager applause for you being here. When you step into a coffee shop, or a party, or a crowded commuter bus — I am glad you are there.

There are those among us who will be crippled by our delusions of importance, who tend to absorb the room as we walk in and push the furniture to the sides so as to better accommodate our presence. But there are also those who feel, often from being unjustly led to believe as much at some point in early life, that they have no importance. They feel that they are a burden of some kind, and are willing to accept being treated as a bit of relatively drab set decoration. You can see in their eyes that they nearly flinch with apology at the end of declarative statements, that their opinions are always tempered in a bit of empathetic softness. They are always doing on behalf of others, putting a million kinds of happiness before their own.

But you are important. You are important in a way that many people will never acknowledge, because they are too consumed with their image in the mirror or their voice on a recording to notice that they share the world with people around them. But you are important because you are good, because you look at your surroundings with tenderness and understanding. You don’t step on flowers when you walk, you allow a housepet to come to your hand instead of roughly insisting on your touch, you leave messages and wait for people to call you back at their convenience. You treat people with respect, and so rarely ask it for yourself. But you should. Because you matter. You matter to me, you matter to the woman you held the elevator for, and you matter to the friend you listened to while they unloaded the problems the world had put on them. You are more important than you will ever know, and never let anyone tell you that your economy of words is a stinginess of character. You are overflowing with love, and we can see it from a mile away. TC mark

 

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