It is the quality of our relationships that most determines our legacy. ~James Kouzes
I’ll wager that few people had as profound an effect on the lives of other as did Eve Carson in her brief 22 years. The former UNC-Chapel Hill student body president was on a prestigious academic scholarship, volunteered in the U.S., Cuba, Ecuador, Egypt, and Ghana, and found time to be a part of campus life in the same way as other students. But what really drew many to Eve, and what draws me to her memory today, was her ability to make others feel special and valued. Her friend Matt Saldana described her saying that “she had the uncommon ability to make everyone around her feel like the most important person in the world.”
Eve’s life came to an end much too soon, the victim of a senseless crime, in a tragedy that Chancellor James Moeser said was “magnified and multiplied by the number and depths of relationships—meaningful relationships—that [she] had on this campus.” Eve thus found what many seek: immortality. Her spirit lives on through those who knew her, as well as those (like myself) who only know her from reading and hearing about her.
I thought about Eve this morning as I asked myself a question I’ve asked many times: What is most important to me? We can only line up our actions with our beliefs if we have those beliefs firmly in mind, so making sure we reaffirm what’s most important periodically (daily even) is a good idea.
To a large extent, our society worships celebrity as the highest of achievements. As Tama J. Kieves said, “We live in a world where we know too much, and yet we know so little that matters. We know what Kim Kardashian ate for breakfast. Still many of us don’t know what we want from this lifetime. We don’t know what brings us unmitigated joy. We do not know how to let go of information and comparison and listen, instead, to conviction and inspiration.”
We not only put the rich and beautiful on magazine covers, we sometimes put ourselves down because of what we aren’t.
I would challenge you to aspire to something much greater than power or wealth or beauty. To have a real impact on the world, to be not only respected but also to be someone held dear even after your time on Earth is gone, make it a goal to make others feel important.
Perhaps you’ve heard the saying, “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” I would add that no one cares how wealthy, beautiful, or powerful you are if you do not care about them.
What are some specific ways we can help others understand their importance in our lives and in the world? Here’s a partial list:
- Tell them! If you’re glad you met someone, express it to that person.
- Celebrate the other person’s success.
- When you introduce someone to another, make sure he or she knows how proud you are to be a friend.
- Overlook his or her mistakes.
- Look him or her in the eyes and listen.
- Put away your phone when you are with another person.
- Buy an inexpensive gift which shows you’ve thought of him or her.
- Plan and go on adventures.
- Know the names of those important to the other, especially his or her family.
- Don’t waste your time together with complaining or gossip.
- Greet others with enthusiasm. It sounds obvious but a smile when you see someone is so warm.
I could go on, but you get the idea. Material things are not to be taken for granted, but an object cannot love us back, and the latest smart phone will be a paperweight in ten years. People will always remember how you treated them and made them feel, even long after you’re gone.