I held one of Grace’s hands, Virginia held the other. We headed down the hall to see Virginia to the elevator. She had come to my house to work on a book, and we had spent about an hour talking about it. Once Grace woke from her nap, we played with her for a while before Virginia had to head home.
Grace was only fourteen months at the time, and walking was new to her. She plodded with energy and determination down the hall, wobbly and wonderful. Virginia was full of joy as she witnessed Grace’s great strides.
“Yes, you’re very important, Grace,” Virginia said as we stepped onto the elevator, “Yes, you matter.”
These words sunk into my ears and straight down to my heart. “You matter,” is not the kind of thing we always say, but what a wonderful message to give a child so young. It should be obvious, of course. Grace matters a great deal to me. It would be safe to say that I could barely live without her. But Virginia meant it in a bigger sense. Grace matters to the whole world. She has gifts to give. She has love to share, along with ideas, talents, knowledge, vulnerabilities. She matters.
And I matter too. This is something I don’t always believe. I sometimes think that what I do does not matter, that my efforts are such small drops in the bucket that they literally do not count. But of course, this is wrong. We all matter. What we say, how we feel, who we smile at, who we help and don’t help—it all matters. What we watch, what we read, what we repeat, what we decide to do with our lives.
Virginia has a talent for seeing what matters. She is able to see that a small softening of a cynic’s heart toward a child, even for just a few minutes, matters. She knows that a Muslim woman’s peaceful response to an angry attack on her faith matters. Even though emotions are elusive, and the results of these singular events may be difficult to measure at first, Virginia’s sensitive spirit detects that subtle shift in the right direction. She knows that these shifts matter. Most people see these changes of the heart as impossible to control, measure, or count on, and certainly too individual to make happen en masse–yet this inner change is what is needed to bring people out of the dark cycle of violent conflict and into the light of reconciliation.
Virginia has spent many years orchestrating experiences that allow these shifts to happen inside of people and organizations. She has done this because she understands that the coming of global peace begins nowhere else but in the heart of each person.