How to Tell What You Value

In a conversation this morning, I used a story as an analogy off the cuff, not really thinking it through as I told it. (Most of my analogies just sort of pop into my head in the same way story ideas pop in there. Not all of them end up being winners.) I was trying to discuss how to tell if something is important to you or not. The story?

TRC’s room has gotten messy from time to time, over the years. (Shocking, I know.) And from time to time, I’ve gone up to help him clean it out. This is usually a fairly big pain, especially if he’s actively involved in cleaning with me. It’s much easier to throw out someone else’s stuff than it is to throw out your own. When I go up to clean his room on my own, I can be ruthless. When he’s there, there are always questions about each and every item.

On one such occasion, I was going through his drawers to toss things. I took out a piece of paper: a certificate for passing a swimming test, I think it was. It had clearly been in the bottom of his drawer for quite some time. It was creased in multiple places, the edges were crumpled, and it had been drawn on the back by a rogue crayon. I went to throw it away, and TRC objected.

“I love that! You can’t throw it away! It’s really important.”

I looked at the crumpled up piece of paper again, then back to TRC. “If you loved it,” I said, “you wouldn’t have let it get all crumpled up like this. The things we care about, we take care of.”

I’ve used that with others over the years since, and I think it’s true in many ways. The things I really care about, I pay attention to. I keep track of where they are, and I make sure they’re looked after properly.

But as I used it in conversation today, it occurred to me that it’s not always true. Some things, we care about deeply, but we forget about them. We take them for granted. Unfortunately, those are the things that are many times most important. Family members can fall into this category. People who are always there. Who we can’t imagine *won’t* be there. We treat them poorly because they’re going to be there no matter what, not realizing that everyone has a breaking point. A point where they refuse to keep going.

Of course, if we stop treating those things with the respect and attention they deserve, then one can really ask if they’re actually important or not.

TRC might well have really valued that piece of paper. Maybe it had been really important to him at some point. But the fact is, it had stopped being important enough to him to pay attention to it. No one else had allowed it to become crumpled and forgotten. That was on TRC and TRC alone.

So my deep thought for us all today is this: is there anything we really love that we’re letting get crumpled in our lives right now? Anything that’s important to us, but which (for whatever reasons) we’ve let slip to the bottom of the drawer, confident it’ll still be there when we need it later on?

Take a bit of time to think that through. And then see if there are any changes to make to ensure the things that really are important don’t fall off the radar. That they continue to receive the attention and respect we wish we would give everything that’s really near and dear to us.

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