When I was in middle school, I had a bad run in with a water trampoline. I was at a church camp with my youth group an hour away from home, slipped on the wet surface, and ended up with two toes on either side of one of the trampoline springs. This landed me in a small-town emergency room with two of our group leaders: an adult and a high school student.
I couldn’t get ahold of my parents, you know, because they weren’t home to answer their landline telephone, so needless to say, I was fairly traumatized (if anyone knew me in the late 1900s, this shouldn’t surprise you. Going to a week long camp away from home was something in and of itself.).
I left the hospital with a few stitches and a love for emergency room doctors, but what I really remember from the whole experience was how touched I was that the high school girl had come with me. Her presence made me feel well loved and less anxious during what would have otherwise been a pretty terrible day for twelve-year-old me.
I was reminded of this whole experience a few weeks ago when I found a typed letter dated July 19, 1998. It was from that very high school girl, and she had written it to me in response to a letter I had written her thanking her for all she had done for me. It was kind and encouraging and meant enough for me to keep long past I received it.
Life is full of so many of these small moments, isn’t it? Moments when people, often unknowingly, impact us greatly or change our course significantly. I’m sure you could think of one1.
Seriously. Stop reading and think of one.I think it’s easy to miss out on creating these opportunities for other people. I can’t tell you how many times I think, “I should give her a call” or “I should write her a note to let her know I’m thinking about her” but then leave the call unmade or the card unwritten.
And then it’s easy to convince myself that it wouldn’t have really mattered anyway. What do I really have to offer, after all?
But here’s what I know: I have never received a card in the mail or a random email or an anonymously packaged pound of coffee (you guys, this ACTUALLY happened to me last week and I really need you to know that it was real and amazing) and thought, “That was weird. I wish she hadn’t done that.”
Instead, I feel exactly the same as I did back in 1998: well loved and important.
As people, we inherently have something to offer. I know this because I have received such wonderful things from people all throughout my life who never knew how much they were really giving me.So here’s to all the unwritten mail. The text messages that get typed out, deleted, and then never sent. The lunch dates that we pretend we don’t have time to plan.
Let’s hit send and lick some stamps.
That one’s for you, 1998 Molly.
¹ I used to make my students watch this Ted Talk every year. It’s just over six minutes and a great story about how a particularly insignificant gesture has the power to change someone else’s trajectory significantly.