My grandmother needed me. I am not sure if I was even old enough to start school when I was invited to spend a whole day helping her. Mema, as I called her, was recovering from something and needed me to be her legs. I arrived ready to serve wearing a small white nurse’s apron with matching cap bearing simple red crosses.
Mema was unique in many ways. Her short round frame generally wore a no-nonsense expression. Her children seemed a little bit afraid of her. Daddy, the youngest of five siblings, was only two when their father suddenly died. Mema became a young widow forced to run a small grocery store and raise her brood of five alone. She had to be tough.
I remember her strange black shoes with clunky heels and black laces. She had an everyday pair and a dress up pair. I couldn’t tell the difference, but she could. Pop-beads or a large broach adorned her simple dresses.
I never dared to disagree with this powerful adult. Her dark eyes and tight dark bun highlighted her “I mean business” presence. Yet, I knew she loved me. She didn’t just read stories, she became the goats in Billy Goat Gruff, stomping across the bridge. Her ample body gave the softest, cleanest smelling hugs. We giggled and sang, sewed and baked together. She knew every verse of “Where Have You Been, Billy Boy, Billy Boy.” I respected and loved her dearly.
To be needed by this strong matriarch was indeed an honor. I felt important. I was needed to help someone and my parents believed I could do it.
You are needed too. The Bible uses the analogy of the human body to illustrate the importance of every individual (1 Corinthians 12:12-27). Each person, like each body part, contributes something special to the whole body. The parts that are hidden are often the most important. God created us to need each other. That includes children and old folks. I needed my relationship with my grandmother and she needed her relationship with me. I am a different person because of her.
In a family, church, or group, each person is necessary—even those we might call “the least.” Recently the presence of a three month old brought hope and joy to an otherwise very grave setting. He lit up the hospital room every time he appeared. Patient and family alike needed this little boy. Are you allowing the young and the elderly in your circles to contribute to your life?
What holds you back from sharing yourself? Mema couldn’t buy me stuff, but she shared stories, skills, songs, and time. Offering our best from love is sometimes better than being the best. Baking cookies with Mema beat baking with any fancy pastry chef any day.
You matter to the people in your life. So when you are feeling unimportant, remember, it is not the same without you.
P. S. Because you are important, let me encourage you to see “Forks Over Knives,” a compelling documentary on the connection between what we eat and our health. If you or someone you love has been touched by cancer, heart disease, hypertension, osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes or obesity, this film can offer real hope. It is playing in Raleigh for a limited time at the Wakefield Cinema. If you miss the movie, read The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell.