I've had a few different thoughts floating around in my head this week. I didn't really think they had much to do with each other until I sat down to write this post. I was pleasantly surprised when they fell together rather coherently.
Thought #1: For some inexplicable reason, I've been thinking quite often about the experience I had on Pioneer Trek when I was fourteen.* It helped me understand, in a small way, how much hard, physical work it took to cross the plains. It taught me to be grateful for the luxuries that we enjoy in modern life, and at the same time taught me that it is possible to be satisfied with less of them. The greatest lesson I learned, though, was about people. We did not get to choose our "families." If we did, I certainly would not have chosen the people that I spent those few days with. They all had personalities, interests, and goals that were completely different from mine. But by the end of the first day, I had grown comfortable with them. By the end of the trek, I had even grown to love them. Part of it came from the camaraderie of a common goal. But another part came from the experiences that allowed me to discover their strengths and their weaknesses. In those few days, I got to see more sides of these people than I probably could see in a year of casual friendship. To put it briefly, Pioneer Trek taught me that there really is something to love about everyone.
Thought #2: A friend and I have been conversing via email about ways to improve certain parts of our lives. As part of that conversation, I started to wonder when it was that people stopped offering refreshments--tea, water, cookies, whatever—when visitors came. It's easy to understand why people don't do it so much anymore. Since most of us work during the day, the era of formal "social calling" is long gone. And while it is still common to offer a glass of water to a visitor, it doesn't involve nearly as much work as being prepared with something a little more special to drink and maybe a nice crumpet or other treat. It's such a charming tradition, and we've lost it somehow. We still do it sometimes, but only for very defined occasions, like a party. Anyhow, something like that might seem very superficial and too formal for everyday occurrence, but after a great deal of thought on the matter, I really think it's just a nice way to tell someone that they are important.
(I'm not saying that offering a glass of water isn't good enough--I think it's a very thoughtful and polite thing to do. And there are many other thoughtful things to make a visitor feel at home!)
Thought #3: This led me to think about how crucial it is, in our day-to-day human relationships, to make others feel important. Just like my unlikely friends from Trek, everyone has immeasurable worth, even if it's not outwardly apparent. And I believe, in order to be happy, we must have some sense of this worth. We learn from Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People (see my post on that book here) that one of the most basic, driving desires of humanity is to feel important. In Kathryn Stockett's The Help, Aibileen felt that the most vital thing she could teach little Mae Mobley was, "You is kind, you is smart, you is important." And she said it every day, just to make sure Mae Mobley knew it. Last, and most significant of all, Christ made everyone feel important by performing miracles and other acts of service for others. Our Lord, the very Son of God, sought the uneducated, the poor, the lame, the lepers, the sinners, and healed them of all their infirmities.
Knowing this, I ask myself: What can I do differently to make others feel important? How can I let them know that they matter to me and to God? How can I say that I'm truly grateful to know them? I've thought of a few things, and I'm excited to make a greater effort to do them. What are your thoughts? What are ways you like to make others feel important?
I hope these thoughts of mine have brightened your week, even a little. You, reader, are important to me. :) Thanks for reading!
*For those that don't know what a Pioneer Trek is, it is a recreation of the Mormon Pioneer's struggles to cross the plains over the period of several days. We were sorted into families, wore Pioneer-type clothing, pulled our possessions in handcarts, slept and cooked our food outdoors, and participated in the same kind of recreation that the Pioneers enjoyed. Thankfully, we did have a truck towing Port-A-Potties for us.