I Never Felt that I was Worth It
I learned that people may forget what you said, they may forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.
The roses were just starting to bloom. She bent down several times to take in their scent, commenting on each one that was particularly fragrant. Row after row she observed, excitedly, their diverse colors and particular beauty. At every turn she glowed with the magnificence and splendor.
We followed her into the butterfly house, as she pointed out the dozens and dozens of varieties flying around us and the diverse colors and patterns on their wings. She laughed as she watched them, in child-like wonder at how many different shapes and kinds there were.
The Japanese garden brought welcome relief from the heat of the mid-afternoon sun. Its thick shade and flowing stream cooled us down and we savored the respite as we slowly walked through it.
Throughout the grounds we noted, as we walked together, so many other colors, blooms and species – the unusual soft needles of a particular evergreen tree, the uniqueness of the climbing hydrangea, the orange zinnia petals that caught her eye.
Up to that point, when we got together to talk each month we had met in her small living room. Several times over the course of many months she’d expressed her reluctance and fear of going out in public. This was our first visit with her outside her home. We hadn’t heard from her in a while and we wondered if she’d reach out to us. When she hadn’t, we got in touch with her and suggested that for this visit we’d walk and talk in the gardens, a place near her home where she said she’d actually like to go.
Sitting on a bench under a big, shady tree near a far corner of the gardens the conversation really got started, as it moved from her delight of the flowers and gardens to her admission that she never felt as if she had much worth as a person.
She was apprehensive to meet with us that day. We wondered why. She said that she was reluctant to “bother” us. She felt as if there were so many others who deserved our time more than she did, that she wasn’t important enough. This was the mantra throughout her life. She’s never put her interests and needs first, always doing what someone else wanted her to do before she’d imagine doing something for herself. She’s always buried her own interests and desires for others.
We asked her if she considered cancelling the visit to the gardens with us that day. She admitted she had. We had suspected that. This was a huge deal for her, going out with us, stepping out of her comfort zone.
She never felt that she was worth it.
Fulfilling her own needs was not second nature. It wasn’t part of her nature at all.
Her two divorces, the recent dissolution of a third relationship, her children who are distant from her and who have all but cut her out of their lives. Her years of profound weight issues, the chronic fatigue syndrome she endures, and a house that is overflowing with far more stuff than she can possibly use all have contributed to and are symptoms of her feelings of unworthiness.
But we told her that she is worthy. She is worthy of our time. She is worthy of sharing an afternoon in a beautiful garden. She is worthy of being known and cared for and loved.
Our good friend Tim Madigan, author of I’m proud of You: My Friendship with Fred Rogers told us that during a low moment in his life, he questioned why Fred Rogers would make the time to talk with him. After all, wasn’t he a very busy man, with more important people to talk with than Tim?
But this was Mr. Rogers’ reply:
Do you know the most important thing in my life right now? Speaking to Tim Madigan on the telephone.
We shared that story with her in the garden that day. At that moment, she was the most important person in our lives. She needed to know that.
Our walk together through the gardens was meant to show her that. Just being present to show her that she was worthy, that she was loved.
Here’s a thought:
Isn’t that simply what we all can do for one another? Simply share time, simply be present, simply listen and care? Wouldn’t that remind us all that we are worth the time, worth each other’s love?