Walk Like You Matter

            When people have been beaten down by life, which extends to everyone emotional and physical blows that are demoralizing and debilitating, their despondency comes through in the way they walk.

            There is no bounce, no “swag,” no lilt, but, rather, a plodding along, the result of the steady placing of one foot in front of the other, as if each step is painful – which it often is. Their gait seems to be saying, “If I can just get through this day …” or in some cases, the prayer and hope is to get through the next five minutes.

            If you look, you see it. Their shoulders are slumped – not drastically, but enough to indicate that they are carrying something within themselves that is heavy and weighing them down. Their chins might be slightly lowered or jutting forward, as if the chin is fighting the entire rest of the spirit and body of the person to keep his/her eyes up, being in position to see and thus grab any tidbit of hope that is available for them. 

            The eyes are open, but not seeing. They don’t see colors. They don’t see the cute and adorable antics of a beloved pet as it works to get attention. They don’t see the dust on tables or dirt on walls. They see that it is daylight, but their eyes also reveal that daylight is no pleasure to them.

            But it’s the walk that I’m noticing. It is a walk that reveals one’s fatigue, one’s exhaustion with fighting. The fights are in so many areas of all our lives. In these people, I see people tired of fighting for justice in many cases, but in others, fighting to keep one’s head above one’s grief, fighting against being lonely, fighting against feeling worthless, and fighting against being dehumanized in a world that can only be its best if all of us who are human claim that status and milk it for all it is worth. Some are fighting against a stubborn addiction, which is holding onto them like syrup sticks to one’s fingers. Some are fighting domestic violence, others are fighting feeling like nothing as they work a job where they don’t even get a working wage, let alone a fair one.

            It is a challenge to live sometimes; too often, we merely exist, as many of us are doing now. The pandemic has taken its toll. The rancid politics has likewise taken its toll. The fight to be heard seems to be futile as lawmakers and the nation’s highest court seem intent on shutting completely down the mere thought and concept of democracy, a place where everyone matters.

            But however heavy is our emotional load, we have to begin the process of claiming our lives, and that process begins with an internal declaration that we matter. We matter. No matter what society says, what the pundits and politicians say, what the pastors and preachers may say or not say, what parents or spouses may say – we matter. 

            And we have to walk like it.

            If we begin each day by opening our eyes and muttering “thanks” even when we are not particularly thankful, we begin the process. If we continue saying “thanks” throughout the day, after a while, that tiny word will begin to enter into the very pores of our spirits. We won’t notice it, because gratitude does its work privately, without our intervention. After a while, though, our emotions will begin to respond. Slowly, the blinders will come off of our eyes, and the plugs, out of our ears. We will breathe in a different way and we will begin to really “see” what we could not see before. As we see what is outside of us we will also begin to see what is inside of us, truthfully, and we will accept ourselves for who we are, weaknesses and strengths alike.

            We will realize that we are not so bad. We will realize that what “they” have said or done to us in an attempt to squelch our joy has not been correct, nor has it worked. Our chins will breathe a sigh of relief because as we see and hear more, our heads will naturally begin to lift, letting the chin rest from the work it has been doing for such a long time.

            We will walk like we matter.

            Because we do.

            Walk like you matter.

            Because you do.

            A candid observation.

Shy to a Fault

All my life, I have been shy to a fault.

People don’t realize it; when I share it in workshops or in places where I speak, people literally laugh and say they don’t believe me. I am so animated when I speak or present, it’s hard for people to believe that when I am done, I crawl into a shell.

I have always done it.

While there is nothing wrong with being shy, I write this to ask any of you who are shy not to let it compromise your life and your possibilities, as I have.

I have not made friends with people as a rule. I have not fostered and cultivated professional relationships. I have not mingled with people of my profession much, getting to know them, and allowing them to know me.

For the years I was a pastor, I basically went to church, did my “church work,” and go home. Oh…I did raise my children, and did quite well at that, I am pleased to say. But I did not build relationships. I did not diversify the palette of my life.

My therapist ( yes, I see one regularly) said that I made my world too small. Isn’t that a wonderful description of what being shy does?

Where in the world does the shyness come from? Is saying I am shy another way of saying I am insecure, or not confident?

I can remember once I went somewhere to preach. I got there early, with a friend, and was led into a roomful of women I didn’t know. I looked around, and the woman was whisking my friend to another area of the building. I wanted to die! There were all these women whom I did not know. They were well-dressed and articulate …and it felt like their heads were blowing up into huge balloons right in front of me; it felt like the balloons were coming toward me! I could not run out. I told myself that …and so I made myself walk to the balloons and, in talking, was able to stick a pin in them so that the big heads shrunk down to normal. I found that I could talk with these women; I found out that I had much to say and that they listened, but I will never forget the terror of those few moments.

Since then, I have been practicing not being shy. Some people from my former church would see me in a crowd, “working the  room,” and would encourage me. That meant a lot. Someone knew I knew this particular weakness of mine, and saw that I was trying to meet it … and, in effect, beat it.

But the bottom line is that I have hurt my life and my career by being so shy. I told/taught my children not to be like me, and thank God, they have listened. I have gone to the best schools, but didn’t connect with people. They, too, have gone to the best schools and have connected with people, have good friends all over the country, and are nurturing the relationships they have made even as they make new connections.

I told you I raised my children well.

I write this because this morning I wept for a few moments as I dealt with seeing myself “face to face.” Sometimes, I like what I see. This morning, I did not.

But the little weeping spell is over. I decided to write because someone else, a young person with lots of gifts and talent, is hiding under a bushel somewhere.

Please come out. The world needs you.

A candid observation …