This past Monday, was my first day back in a month at West Linn High School where I regularly serve as a substitute teacher; for some subs, that may not be a huge deal, but I exclusively sub at West Linn; typically, I am at the school three to four days a week, sometimes even five day. Both students and staff have even said to me, “You are always here.”
While on a break in the day, I stopped to say hi to the lovely receptionist Cristina who greets you when you walk into the school’s front office. She is the first person who says hello to students and community members. She is the one who makes you feel you matter; she is the one who gives you that knowing smile that says you are okay and things will be okay.
Cristina asked me how things have been and we made some other small talk as one does. I told her about some of the things I was doing and that it’s felt a bit odd being away for so long.
And, then she said something that was so simple but so meaningful; she said that she and the sub coordinator Kathy “had been thinking about you, and we both noticed that you have not been here, and we’ve missed seeing you.”
That’s it. That very phrase and statement, when someone says they have noticed that you haven’t been around, and the added bonus, that they have missed you. It is huge and important. It’s the small, little, everyday ordinary words of speaking kindness, thoughts that show you notice another, these rather simple things are that are ordinary are actually extraordinary; because they matter. You matter. You are loved.
Years ago, I heard of a student at a large high school who was so low emotionally that he began contemplating suicide; he even began plotting it out, the steps and manner in which he was going to take his own life. No one seemed to care, no one seemed to notice him, and people wouldn’t know he was gone, anyway, so he felt.
Then, a teacher on the very day this student was going to commit suicide, happened to pay special attention to him, to ask how he was doing, to show him that he mattered. Caring can be as simple as asking questions and taking an interest in another person. The student decided to not follow through on his plans to end his life.
I know problems go deeper than a simple hello or greeting can magically solve, but it’s a start. Just speaking up, noticing others, smiling. Very simple.
In the end, isn’t that what we all want. To be noticed. To matter, to be important to someone, to some place, to some community? And, for someone to tell us?
It’s important to do this with all people in our lives, to pay attention to them in small ways and large, to notice when they are here–and not here. When my kids come home from college, I tell them that I miss them. When I have been away on a trip, I tell my kids I missed them. When my kids are away at summer camp and return, I tell them that I missed having breakfast with them or going on walks with them or having conversations with them.
Their presence matters, and they need to know. This is one tangible way to let our friends and family and colleagues know we love them, we care.
Lesson for today: Let people know you notice them. And, miss them when they are gone. Tell them. It’s about love. Simply.
“Kind words are like honeycomb to the soul and healing to the bones.” –Proverbs 16:24
Has someone said something to you before that made you feel you matter, that you were important, that you were missed?