“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
– Maya Angelou
Last week, I wrote about embracing the feeling of Christmas over the look of Christmas. I wrote about less fretting, more stillness. Less perfect, more joy. Less consumption, more generosity. Less struggle to create the look of Christmas, more contentment with the feeling of Christmas that is already there.
Nowhere is the feeling of Christmas, for me, more noticeable than with people and in relationships. After all what is Christmas if not a celebration of human divinity, of people and relationships, of the sacred ground that is love and friendship and family? And in what better way can we honor human divinity than in the way that we make others feel?
My grandpa passed away a little over two years ago and, while I remember very few notable conversations or wise words of advice from him, I will always remember the way that he made me feel, the way that he made others feel.
A robust and jovial man, my grandpa had a natural way of making you feel like you were just the person he had been waiting to see, like you the most important person in the room, like the party could start now that you had arrived. He oozed hospitality and generosity and comfort, and I can still see him standing at his bar in the basement, fixing cocktails, laughing at jokes, putting people at ease.
When he passed away, the world lost a generous soul with the unwavering ability to cast a wide net and draw the world in, an imperfect man who was filled with human divinity. The real tragedy, though, is that I’m not sure if he ever knew the power that he had to make a person feel welcome, how contagious his energy and warmth were, and how special he always made me and others feel. I like to think that he knew these things, that he could see it in the way people looked at him, but the reality is that I just don’t know.
Because I never told him, never showed him.
In my teens and early-twenties I was too busy playing the role of headstrong teen and self-confident young woman. And then when I got older and those pretenses were shattered, I was just too busy. It always seemed too corny, too sappy, too awkward (for me, certainly, but for possibly for him as well), and too unnecessary to expose myself by admitting the profound – and possibly unrecognized – impact that he had on me and others.
Sure, I wrote thank-you notes year after year for the gifts he and my grandma gave us. I gave hugs and visited him when I could. I told him about the goings-on in my life, I said “I love you,” and I cried at his funeral. But did I ever tell him how much he taught me about warmth, generosity, and hospitality? Did I ever tell him how much I admired his cheerful and welcoming spirit? Did I ever tell him how much I respected his genuine love of life and family?
I can’t say that I did.
In our crazy-busy-I-can-do-it-on my-own-stiff-upper-lip-don’t-be-too-sappy society, there seems to be a tendency to forget our interdependence and the impact that we can have on others, and that others have on us. But how can anyone really ever know what they mean to us, they way that they make us feel, and the impact that they have on the world around them if we don’t tell them and show them, often and always?
So don’t wait.
Say it. Show it.
Often and always.
Say it. Show it.
Often and all ways.
And Grandpa, if you’re reading this somewhere, somehow, I hope you’re enjoying a CC on the rocks while you throw dice, laughing loud and loving the next life as much as you loved this one.