I’ve been thinking about my uncle Todd today. He is a possessor of my personal favorite spiritual gift, that of making people feel special. And when I say ‘people’ what I really mean is ‘me’. He makes me feel special and has done so for as long as I remember. As a well-respected leader in his immediate family, extended family, church, profession, and community, I’m sure he has a large network and yet yesterday I casually checked my email and found a page-long letter to me. This might be my favorite ‘in-box’ moment of the day…on the occasion that Uncle Todd sets aside all of the other cares and relationships of the day and gives me a few minutes of his dedicated time. This is a poor replacement to real face-time, but after all, we have lived over a thousand miles away from one another for most of my life. How do we maintain such a bond?
Uncle Todd communicated to me very early on that what mattered to me mattered to him. When I was a little girl…maybe in my early adolescence, I became a haphazard scrap-booker…not talented in the least, but may I assure you that what I lacked in talent I made up for enthusiasm. The typical trouble of any hardcore scrap-booker is finding someone who cares enough to fully and deeply appreciate the hours of care that were poured into the glue, glitter, cut up photos, and random color-coordinated stickers. But Uncle Todd did.
Every kid wants a someone special to stop everything and just be interested in what is interesting in that random thing that he or she thinks is wonderful. Having this intuition isn't easily come by, and every kid needs something a little different, but somehow Uncle Todd knew that this is what this kid needed. On several occasions, he’d came by to visit my family and he’d spent an impressive amount of time looking at photos, asking about specific friends, pointing out especially well-crafted designs, and generally just saying ‘you matter’. I feel a little bit weepy even composing this memory of his kindness. Man, that was sure good of him.
The way he valued my opinion stretched into my adulthood as he would occasionally call or more frequently send over an email asking my opinion on an issue that he was facing in one of his many leadership positions in his life. He would present me with a somewhat complex question and ask me what I would do about it. I strived to squeeze out any trace of wisdom that I might have hiding within me for his benefit, always subconsciously bearing in mind that with his two-dozen years more of experience in all things life and leadership- related, my thoughts certainly would not enlighten him in any real meaningful way. I think maybe he must have just enjoyed connecting with me and learning about how I saw the world. Maybe what we talked about didn’t always matter. He just wanted to reach out and say in his own unique way, “I want you to know that you are important and that you matter.”
Just recently, he had business in my part of the country. He flew in and drove three hours to see me and my family. We visited for two hours and he got back in his car and drove the three hours back to the destination of his business. If you do the math, that just doesn’t make sense. But it made perfect sense to me. He loves me. He’s been quietly telling me that all of my life. I matter to him and that’s the kind of thing people do for those they love.