Four Ways to Value Friends and Family – Without Buying A Single Thing
I used to think I couldn’t visit a friend without taking along some little gift – a loaf of homemade bread, usually.
Fortunately, I got over it, eventually realizing that most of the time, my humble presence was sufficient. I learned that what happens during our visit is far more important than my latest recipe.
What counts is giving people value.
In making others feel valued, we reflect how God sees them – beautiful and perfect. So – what we do and say when we are with loved ones matters. It matters a lot.
I must admit, I haven’t always been great at this. Not even what I’d call “good.” (But thank God for neuroplasticity. The brain – and our habits – can change.)
In my experience, it’s important to consciously zero in on what truly makes people feel loved and respected. Or at least try.
Here’s my short list:
- Making eye-contact. We all know people whose eyes roam around the room while they’re talking to us. They’re distracted. Unable to focus. And how does that make us feel? We wonder if they’re even listening to what we have to say! Believe me, I know about distracted people. I used to be one of them. Making eye-contact conveys respect. It says, “I appreciate you.”
- Being still.That means being present, especially when someone needs us to listen. You’ve heard the saying, “We are not human “doings,” we are human “beings.” (Although I will be the first to support good works.) Remaining still makes us mentally available. It allows someone to “empty their cup”and tells them they are deserving of being “heard.” Even a small child. Especially a small child. We simply give the other person our time and attention – and listen with empathy. When my older daughter was trying to choose a college, she’d visited all the schools where she’d been accepted, and already attended a departmental event at one school. But she was still undecided. Then another invitation arrived in the mail, for a special meet-the-department chair event on a particular Saturday. But she really wasn’t excited about going. So early that morning, I went into her room and lay down beside her. What a tough age – and a tough decision! I mentioned that we could go, and be there in two hours. Would she like to take another look?” In our time on the bed, she revealed that the first time she visited the school, students had led the discussions. She’d been disappointed in their presentation. But she’d never mentioned any of that. Now, with this bit of information, I proposed she give it another shot, because an actual professor would be speaking. We went. She loved it, and now it’s all history. Remember, you can never tell what impact your being there will have on someone’s life.
- Touching. Touch is the earliest form of connection. It’s what babies feel in the womb, even before they can hear, around four months gestation. For babies and young children, touch is not optional, but essential for weight-gain and physical growth as well as social-emotional development. I carried all my children in a red corduroy Snugli, keeping them close. I recall one night when my youngest, then three, tucked my hand under her cheek as she fell asleep. She wanted me to stay with her and my hand gave her comfort. With teens, we need to take our cues from them – never forcing it – but responding in a way that respects boundaries and is comfortable for their personalities. In some cultures, men openly hug in greeting. Women are seen walking arm in arm. (Two of my husband’s cousins do this and I love it!). Reaching out to touch another’s arm or shoulder while talking, or hold a hand, shows the person we value who God made them in the flesh. And there’s nothing more accepting than that.
- Saying their name. Yup. Pretty simple. You can give someone value just by using their name – albeit in the right tone. I was recently touched when my mom casually inserted my name into a sentence during a conversation. To me it meant, “I am speaking directly to you, no one else.” Doing this brings the conversation into the present moment. It’s a powerful way of telling someone you really “see” them.
Valuing the people in our lives is what we are meant to do – lifting them up, helping them become more. And we could all do a little more of it. FFG.