When I was five, I composed a poem to God. I remember thinking how amazing that was and how amazing I was. I felt so capable and creative and smart and I sadly wondered why no one else had ever noticed those things about me. Growing up, there was always the sense that no one really saw me, my value, or my experiences. As a friend put it, “I wasn’t even a blip on my parents’ radar.”
Many things contributed to my being “unseen”. My father’s alcoholism and addictions, my mother’s youth and abusive childhood, my parents’ mental and emotional states, the era and culture we lived in, little extended family, my constantly changing schools, my shyness and my great fear of other people. I grew up feeling alone, valueless, and unrecognized by the world.
One day, when I was 9 or 10, I was waiting in the reception area at our family doctor’s office while my mother was being seen. There was a woman sitting there and she asked me about the crocheting I was doing. I answered her and we proceeded to have a lengthy conversation. This was the first adult who had ever shown an interest in me, or had even seemed to really see me. We, (well, mostly I) talked on and on, until my mother came out from the exam room and she and I left.
A few days later I received a letter in the mail. It was from the woman I had talked to at the doctor’s office. She told me how nice it had been to meet me and how much she had enjoyed our conversation. And, although I don’t remember now exactly what she said, she also acknowledged my worth and uniqueness; commenting on how intelligent, creative, and articulate I was.
I don’t think anything else in my life ever had, or ever has, impacted my self-worth as positively as this woman’s recognition. It still brings tears to my eyes to remember it. To know that it was true, that I was important, that I did have worth, that someone else had seen it, was a shining light that helped me navigate through my dark, lonely world. I’ve always been baffled about what led her to write to me, but it was such a validation. I felt that I must really be special and amazing if this stranger took the time and made the effort to get my address and write to me. I doubt she had any idea what a life preserver that letter, and more importantly, that acknowledgement, was to me, yet throughout my life it truly kept me afloat.
I grew up terrified of “strangers”. Yet it was a stranger who affected my life so positively. Although I often fall short, the hope that I could likewise be a blessing to someone else encourages me to kindness, generosity, and light towards others in my community. Even the strangers.