The girl’s head snapped up as soon as I made the point. Her look was a mixture of confusion, fear, and sadness. What I said obviously affected her. It was distracting and concerning.
I had just talked about children being important, significant, and valuable. I probably said something like this:
You are important, significant, and valuable. God created you and He didn’t have to, but He wanted you. Jesus took your sins upon himself and died to set you free. He did this for me, too! That’s how important He says we are. You have unique gifts, talents, dreams, and desires and you may be the only one that has the combination of these things that you have. This too gives you great value. You are important! Everyone is important. We are not more important than others, but each of us is important.
That’s when this little girl’s head snapped up so her eyes met mine.
When I finished my message, she came forward to talk to me. With some of the saddest eyes I’ve ever seen and with a quivering voice, she asked, What if I don’t feel important? I know I’m important because God made me and loves me like you said. But, I don’t feel important when I’m with my family. I want to feel important and not just know I’m important.
She’s the first child to ask me this directly. I have often seen a look on the face of children and teens that I believe is communicating this same pain. I don’t want to forget. It’s one of the realities that motivates me to be who I am and do what I do. It saddens me and makes me angry.
Lately I’ve been applying her question, What if I don’t feel important? and her mature-beyond-her-years-statement, I want to feel important and not just know I’m important to current cultural issues.
Before I continue, though, let me encourage you to think about it. In what ways does feeling important matter to you? Are there times when feeling important trumps knowing you’re important? Or, are there times when knowing you’re important isn’t satisfying because you’re not feeling important in the moment?
In my heart I believe it is these groups wanting to know and feel they’re important. It’s painful to know it but not feel it. And, if people feel unimportant often, they might question whether they are important. If people doubt they’re important, their actions don’t matter. Their lives don’t matter.
Are these movements questioning our society, “Am I important to you?” “Do you care that I’m alive?
So, here’s where I’ve landed. In my presence, do people different from me feel important. I know they’re important to me, but my questions are:
- Do they know they’re important to me?
- Do I make eye contact with them?
- Do I smile when noticing them?
- Wait. Let’s back up. … Do I notice them?
- Do I say “hi” and ask for their names?
- Do I interact? Why? To get to know them? To judge them? To correct them? To love them? To communicate that I value them?
- Do I reject or accept?
- Am I apathetic or concerned?
- Does my concern result in positive action?
You get the idea.
We’re only responsible for ourselves. Parents, of course, have major responsibility to raise children with positive and right beliefs. Let’s do what we can where we can. Let’s not contribute to the problem, but work to change what’s real.