You know, it’s funny. Early this morning, while driving to meet my husband at our girls’ school, Jane came to mind. Jane was a nurse supervisor in the Trauma Intensive Care Unit where I worked as an acute-care SLP. She wasn’t what I would call a personal friend, but, sometimes, after care plan meetings or as I waited to see a patient, she and I would chat.
13+ years later, I remember her with great fondness.
As Tim and I exited chapel this morning, we had the occasion for a couple of exchanges with fellow parents. When we were alone, I expressed my dire need for a class in “small talk.” Speaking with people that I don’t know can be excruciating for me. I am clumsy and sorely aware of my lack of ease in this regard.
“It’s not that I don’t care about people,” I said to my husband. “I care deeply. I just don’t care much about the weather.” In other words, I care little about surface matters. But, cultural etiquette demands that I wade in the shallow end of the pool before moving into the deep. I continued, “I believe it must be a gift. It just seems to come so naturally to some people…”
And before I finished my thought, there she was again. Jane. I wish I could remember her last name. She was sitting across the table – eyes fixed on me. What was it about her?
A couple of weeks ago, while making a research paper harder than it needed to be, I came across an article written on the concept of “Mattering.” The term peaked my curiosity, so I read it.
“Mattering,” as defined by Elliott et al. (2004), “is the perception, to some degree, that we, as human beings, believe we are important and significant to the world around us and to others in our lives. They suggested that mattering to others is actually essential to our sense of self (all human beings want to matter to others) and to society (as an element of social bonding).”
Yes! Of course! That was Jane’s gift! While I’d be hard-pressed to recall her words, I remember – distinctly – the message her eyes conveyed.
I remember how she made me feel.
In those moments with Jane, I mattered.
Maybe there’s a lesson here. In focusing on myself – on my own feelings of awkwardness – my focus is misplaced. What if what I say is secondary to why I feel compelled to say anything at all -
- because they matter.
*Sadly, Jane is no longer in this world. She died after giving birth to her only child. Jane, I never got to tell you how much you mean to me. I hope that one day, I will.