Some of you know I received my first You Matter card from a colleague. The words on the card went right to my heart. I felt like I had been hugged. The gesture inspired me to order and share my own cards, initiate what turned into the life-changing interaction with a stranger in the grocery store, and ultimately, start the You Matter Marathon.
A few days ago, I had an equally powerful exchange with a woman in a parking lot, but instead of being positive, this one was toxic. Yet, paradoxically it just as viscerally reminded me how powerful words are. And how we must use them to heal rather than hurt.
I was looking for a parking spot in a crowded lot. A woman was parked in a car in front of me illegally. She waved for me to go around her, but the cars were packed so tightly that I couldn’t get by. So I politely gestured that there wasn’t room, and I waited. She continued to wave for me to go around her, and I continued to stay put – opting for patience over risking scraping the Mercedes parked just inches away. Finally, the woman backed her car up enough to allow me to carefully pass her. When our cars were next to each other, she looked straight at me and screamed a three word profanity.
Her words hit me hard. I had been kicked in the stomach. I started to shake. Not with anger but with shock. Never had I been referred to in such ugly terms. Never had a simple parking lot frustration gone from zero to 100 instantly. Never had I felt so unfairly characterized by a complete stranger.
What made it worse was that young children were in the back of her car. I couldn’t help but feel for them. No doubt this was not the first time they heard this language. And I felt for this woman. What must it be like to live with such poison? Who taught her to speak to people like this? What happened in her life that she thinks this is the way human beings should talk to each other, should manage conflict, be human together?
Even though I know the profanity is not who I am and that I had done nothing wrong, it still shook me up. It still hurts.
Someone asked me after the first You Matter Marathon if I were going to do it again, knowing how much time and money it had taken. And I said yes: we’re going to do the You Matter Marathon again and again and again. The world needs us. Now more than ever.
As the hurt wore off, it was replaced by an even stronger feeling – gratitude. Gratitude for every one of YOU – the YuMMies who share my commitment to using language to heal, to connect, to uplift and affirm our common humanity.
And I thank you.
Cheryl Rice, Founder