The loneliness is something they won’t tell you at teacher school, the way that hanging out with teenagers day in and day out will grate on you. They won’t tell you that some days you will end up sitting on a student desk in another teacher’s room during lunch just so that you can talk to another person whose frontal lobe is fully developed.
This is only amplified when you are teaching in the midst of poverty. There will be entire days, weeks, months, semesters, where no one will tell you thank you. No one will tell you that you matter. It isn’t because these students and parents are less grateful for the effort you take to teach. It is just that the resources are already stretched so thin, there is no time, space, 5 dollar gift card to Starbucks left to tell a teacher she is doing a good job.
I remember vividly the day my colleague came in to tell me that one of my students had said something nice about me, the time at the end of the year that a student stayed after school to shake my hand and tell me I was a “real nice lady.”
Between those two instances was the tiny whisper in my head, the fearful whisper on repeat “you don’t matter, what you do doesn’t matter.”
The same plight is often true for motherhood. There is nothing like spending all day with tiny people who are unable to form a sentence that doesn’t start with “Mommy I want” that drives you to strike up a conversation with the telemarketer. It is often the people who need us the most that can’t tell us how much it means. That little voice starts cycling in the three-hundredth time you have cleaned up the dog’s spilled water.
“You don’t matter. What you do doesn’t matter.”
This December I joined the blogging team for Exodus Road, an organization that is doing some truly amazing things to fight sex trafficking. Their efforts are saving lives, restoring dignity to women throughout south-east Asia. I am supposed to write a post for their organization once a month and I have attempted to write this post at least ten times this January. But I always get stuck. That same lie keeps playing in my head “You don’t matter, you will not make a difference.”
Currently The Exodus Road is being featured on The Huffington Post, other people are writing beautiful things about it like this one. What could I possibly have to add to the conversation that would matter? Surely the voice in my head is correct, and my voice on the page is unimportant.
Folks, this is a giant lie from the pit of hell and I am ready to send it back where it goes.
The person ahead of me in line on Tuesday bought my coffee, the day before that someone had left an envelope with 5 dollar bills in it for people to take on the gas pump I was using. I didn’t have to go to the bank on the way home or for the rest of the week. I had toll money. These actions mattered. They mattered far more than their face value of $7.45. They reminded me that I am valued, that I am watched over, that I matter.
The people who work for The Exodus Road are fighting the same lies you and I are. Every time they go undercover they find more girls than they can save, they see more evil than they can hold. Because of the sensitive nature of their work, these brave men are not at liberty to discuss the evil that they battle. There are days they are sure that they are not making a difference. Today I tell them:
What you are doing matters. It matters to the girls who are trapped in sexual slavery, to the parents who are helpless to find their lost daughters, to me comfortable on a Saturday morning watching cartoons with my two lovely daughters. You are making a difference in our world too. What you are doing matters. I am so very grateful you are doing it.
I know it is hard to believe that a like on Facebook or a follow on Twitter could do anything to help an organization that is fighting a problem as big as sex trafficking. It seems like these things just will not matter. That sentiment is a lie. As I wade deeper into the social media pond, I am learning that every follow on Twitter, every like on Facebook is a tiny piece of social capital. Newspapers are far more likely to pick up stories if the teller already has an audience. Legislators take seriously people who have thousands of followers on twitter. They can no longer afford not to.
Your like on Facebook, your follow on Twitter, you telling your friends to do the same, these things matter very much. Every set of eyes that chooses to watch this story casts that much more light into this dark problem. You matter. I promise you do.
Where in your life do you hear this lie? How can I pray for you from freedom from this lie? Cause it is. A giant lie.