As a young girl, I engaged in every variety of romantic future telling. If you could write the name of a cute boy, a house, a number of children and then fold a paper until it successfully predicted your future, I had done it at least a thousand times. In fact, I’d probably set up a profitable business in my corner of the playground providing this service for others. Have a flower? Let me pull those petals off and find out if your beloved returns your feelings. He Loves You. He Loves You Not. He Loves You.
I suppose even then I believed relationships were a powerful force in our lives, able to communicate much about our value in this world. And even then, I wanted to look forward to a life filled with many strong, fulfilling relationships. I wanted to know I’d be surrounded by people who loved me, thought highly of me, who seemed to whisper, “you matter.” Don’t we all?
As someone who battles chronic illness and rare disease on a daily basis, I’ve become increasingly aware of the messages our culture sends about my worth. How much do I matter? I can generally get a feel for this within minutes of meeting a new doctor. Does my journey matter to this person? Am I just another hassle or another patient? I’ve left doctor’s offices feeling utterly defeated before, like a fool for even trying to get better. Who did I think I was searching for health or a better quality of life? I’ve also left doctor’s offices infused with hope, crying tears of gratitude over the dignity I was shown.
And what about employers and people at large? How often do they treat you and I as though the less we are able to do, the less we are worth? I’d love to tell you I’ve never been treated as though I was little more than a burden on society, but that’s simply not the case. And you know this because you’ve seen this in people’s eyes as they look down at your child in a wheelchair or your spouse in a hospital bed. But then, there are the “other ones.” The ones whose love and kindness, whose words of concern and understanding bring tears to your eyes.
I can’t tell you why, but my world is filled with these people. There are people who fill my freezer with precooked meals, who open their home to me even though I’m a stranger so I can travel for treatments. There are people who care for my children in my absence, whose actions whisper to me “You matter.”
I once had a doctor who insisted that whenever I had an infection or complication of any kind (which occurred frequently) that I call him. He wanted me to do this regardless of the time of day. No matter how often this happen, regardless of how late I called into his answering service, he would come to the line recognize my voice and say, “Stacey, it’s so good to hear your voice, now tell me, what’s going on?” And I would cry. Just a little. Every single time. Because, to me, he was saying, “Stacey, your pain, your journey- they matter. You aren’t a burden to me. You deserve to be well-cared for.”
And let’s be honest, disease has this way of whispering into our ears, day after day. Pain can be so unrelenting. Culture can be so convincing in it’s conversation with the differently abled. Together, they all seem to be saying: You don’t matter. Your story doesn’t matter.
Last week, a friend texted me and thanked me for allowing her to be a part of my journey. At first, I laughed. Who in their right mind would be thankful to be a party to this journey? And then I let then words really sink in. I let them say to my heart, “You matter.” I ran my hand over the key in my purse, which goes to a home in another state. I’ve met the family twice. But they’ve welcomed me in so that my treatment there might be a financial possibility. I let this generosity say to me, “You matter.”
And today, I want to say to you: All those other voices, they’re liars. You Matter. So much. And while I can’t give you a key to my home or invite you to call me at any time, I can thank you for allowing me to be a part of your journey. I can thank you for bringing what only you can bring to this world. You deserve to be well cared for. You matter.
In what ways are people whispering, “You Matter” in your lives?
Stacey is an author, goofball and avid reader. You can find her blog at chronicallywhole.com where she endeavors to encourage other warriors like herself along in their journey of battling for health and discovering wholeness. She is mom to Hayden and Avery, stepmom to Julie and wife to Ryan (a smarty pants who works at NASA and logs their whole life on spreadsheets and pie charts, true story!) She has a strange affinity for eating whole meals in bed (don’t tell anyone) and is convinced smelling old books will make her smarter.