Today I am wearing a shirt that reads “Ayiti we have not forgotten you.” The phrase is meant to inspire me to remember the story of suffering endured by our friends in Haiti as the earthquake hit.
When we loose someone one or experience tragedy often the way which we comfort ourselves and those who endured the tragedy personally is to say something like, “I will always remember.” There is a certain power that comes in the form of remembering.
While I was in seminary I worked with a high school youth group in Littleton, Colorado. I had worked with the class of 1999 since they had been in the 6th grade. I knew them well and loved them dearly, still do. In April of that year I was driving home from a class and noticed helicopters and police officers all headed in the direction I was going. “I wonder what’s going on?” I thought to myself. An announcer on the radio began to relay the horrific events taking place at Columbine High School.
I rushed home, turned on the TV and picked up the phone. I needed to know if the students I knew who attended Columbine were safe. I was in shock as I watched the story unfold. This day, April 20, 1999, I will never forget. When ever I see 4:20 on my clock or when that day rolls around every year a piece of me aches, shutters once and then composes itself again.
A few years later the events of September 11 unfolded and many lost ones they loved. I moved to the San Francisco Bay area the following year and there was pastor at the church where I worked who had come from the east coast. He and his family lost many loved ones on that day. Having walked through Columbine I knew that anniversaries were difficult so I wrote he and his family a card. His wife called later saying I was the only one who remembered and she instantly trusted me, invited me into her story and pursued relationship with me.
Having moved a few times in my life, I know the joy of being remembered. I love it when I get an invitation to an event that I know I can’t go to, knowing that my friend also knew I couldn’t attend but simply wanted me to know I was remembered. When a friend sends me a text message that simply says, “thinking of you today,” it causes me to immediately know and taste my value in another person’s life.
When I was a youth pastor I had the honor of shepherding a great group of students, but remembering their names was always a challenge. I would make a deal with a student when I’d meet them. I’d say, “okay I meet a lot of people and I want you to know that I really want to remember your name cause you are important to me. But I also know that sometimes I forget. So here’s the deal. I get to ask you your name 2 times. If I have to ask a third, then I will take you out for a coke.” They would laugh and you bet, every week they’d come up to me and ask, “hey! what’s my name?” They wanted to be remembered. When I didn’t remember they’d hold me to it. Some great relationships were formed out of getting a coke with a student whose name I couldn’t remember.
Just as there is power in being remembered there is also a kind of power in being forgotten. Both speak to one’s value. Being remembered causes an individual to feel valued. And in a similar way, being forgotten can cause an individual to question her value.
Let’s try an experiment. Today whenever you remember someone let them know in some small way. You can text, write on their facebook wall, send an email, leave a voice message, write a post card, show up at their door step, heck you could hire a plane to do some fancy skywriting over your friend’s home, but just do something to let them know you remember them.
I’d love to hear how it goes. So come back and share your story.
For now how about sharing a thought or two about a time when you were remembered and it encouraged you.