Chaplain Larry Haworth
YOU ARE IMPORTANT
How often do you call somewhere and, instead of a live human voice
answering, you get that all-too-familiar, “Please hold, your call is important
to us”? I get it too often. I’ll admit, though, that I’d rather hear a
recorded voice than just a busy signal. And, I do hope that the recorded
voice is speaking for the human and that my call really is important to them.
But I sometimes wonder.
Please take these written words as coming from the heart of a real person,
namely me, when I say, “you truly are important.” We live in an age of
synthetic voices, recorded messages, canned speeches, superficial come-ons,
and awful sales pitches. It seems that, no matter where we go, what we do, or
what channel we surf, someone is there saying how important we are. Trouble
is, it’s not always so clear whether we are important to them because we are
intrinsically important to them or whether they just want to get something
from us. How much junk mail do you receive? How much spam clogs up your
email? You know you’re important to the senders of this unwanted stuff. You
also know that you’re important only because they want something from you,
mostly money. Not that they are or are not worthy organizations or people,
but they may or may not even know you. You are important, not for yourself,
but for what they want from you.
On the other hand, as I already said, you truly are important. Like, when
you call a friend and get their answering machine. They aren’t home at the
time and the answering machine says to leave a message and they’ll call you
back. Then, a while later, they actually do call you back. That makes you
feel important to them, doesn’t it? Of course, it does. That’s because when
you’re important enough to your friend that he or she goes to the trouble to
return your call, you are reassured that you are important enough for them to
take the time and effort to call you just as they were important enough to you
to make the call to begin with. My wife and I recently moved into a
retirement community where we knew absolutely no one. However, everybody who
lives here is retired military, the kind who are usually easy to meet. We
quickly became friends with our neighbors. They began calling us whenever
they would be away to just let us know what was going on with them. They were
interested in what was happening with us too. We were important to them and
we felt it. They were important to us, for sure. Within days of moving to a
new home we’d gained new friends! How can you beat that?
I assure you that you are just as important as our new neighbors or as we
or as anyone else. Think about it. Your importance isn’t dependent on how
you feel about it. I remember some years ago when I was in a real funk. I
was going through a hard time and I really felt down and very unimportant to
anyone, except maybe to my immediate family and they were clear across the
country. Then, a friend, who I’ll never forget, said to me, “Larry, if you
knew how others feel about you, you wouldn’t feel that way about yourself.”
That was well over thirty years ago. I assure you that the same applies to
you. You are important. You are important in and of yourself. You are
important just because you’re you. You’re also important because someone
loves you. You are important because you have something worthwhile to someone
else, whether near or far. It may be great or it may be small. You may be
overwhelmingly talented or you may be normal like most of us. But you are
important. You may or you may not feel it, but you are.
Finally, let me remind you that you are important because God made you and
He says you are important. You are not an accident. You were planned by God
and you are loved by God. Whether you feel it or not, you are loved and you
are important. If God said you are worthy and you are loved, then you are.
Jesus said in Matthew 10:29-30, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penney? Yet
not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.
And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid;
you are worth more than many sparrows.” The Bible also says, in John 3:16,
“For God so loved the world that he gave His only Son….” The world includes
you and me. That’s how it is.
Indeed, you are important. So am I. Never forget that. OK? OK.
God bless you. God loves you. So do I.
Christmas! Hanukkah! New Years Day! Valentines Day! Presidents Day
(George Washingtons and Abraham Lincolns birthdays combined)! Martin Luther
Kings Birthday! Easter! Memorial Day! Fourth of July! Veterans Day!
Thanksgiving! (Forgive me if I left any out) What great days! What happy
days! “Oh? What’s so happy about them?,” you might say. “You gotta be
kidding,” I reply. What’s so happy about them is we get time off. We
celebrate by having cook-outs and going away. “What do you think I’m
thinking?,” you might ask. What I’m thinking is that holidays are wonderful
days, fun days, days to take time off and do something special. So I like
having cook-outs and trips to the lake on holidays. But it seems to me that
there’s a whole lot more to these special days than just doing something
different and getting away from work, school, and routine.
I don’t know anyone who doesn’t think that holidays are happy days, or at
least that they should be. I recognize that for some, there are holidays that
have very bad memories and associations because of terrible things that
happened to them on that day. Some may have lost a family member on a holiday
so they don’t like the holiday or it’s season because it reminds them of that
sad event. Others may remember being in a terrible place on a particular
holiday so they don’t like that day because it reminds them of what they want
to forget. Some are alone so they don’t like the holiday because they don’t
have family or close friends to celebrate with - their loneliness is magnified
on holidays because they are along when others are enjoying their families or
old friends. But, aside from these negative associations some of us might
have, almost all of us really like and enjoy holidays in this blessed land of
Every holiday I’ve mentioned, and others I may have overlooked, is very
important to us, including our personal birthdays. The reason they are so
important is that each holiday has a special reason and meaning for being a
holiday. Sure, time off work, a change in routine, BBQs and picnics are
important. We have a strong need for family gatherings, for seeing old
friends, for getting together with neighbors. But please recognize this:
there’s a particular reason for why each holiday is there to begin with. Each
was set aside because it means something very important that no other day of
the year means in that particular way. The Fourth of July is to celebrate the
day when our Founders signed the Declaration of Independence and we became our
own independent, individual country with freedoms and rights that no other
country ever had before. Veterans Day is a day we set aside to remember and
show appreciation to all the men and women who have served in our military to
protect and preserve America - the land of the free and home of the brave. Do
you see what I mean?
For several years I traveled to Washington, DC to visit the war memorials
that honor those who’ve given their lives in the wars our country has fought
in order to preserve the freedoms that everyone deserves. I love Memorial
Day for what it means . I also appreciate the time off and the activities
that I enjoy. I feel the same for every holiday and I try real hard to
observe each one for what it means. I also like to have plenty of fun on
As I’m writing this, it’s almost Christmas. I’ve gotten into the Christmas
spirit. I enjoy the music, the lights, the food (uh-oh, too much food), and
all. But I also recognize why Christmas is a holiday too. For Christians,
it’s to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and our Savior.
For everyone, including non-Christians, it’s a time to express our love for
our families, for each other [and everyone around us, I hope], to exchange
gifts and bring happiness to others, to enjoy traditions of happiness, joy to
the world, and Santa Claus. So, when we say “Merry Christmas” all of this is
what we’re wishing for those to whom we give the greeting.
So, guess what. At Christmas, I say, “Merry Christmas” or “I hope you’ll have
a wonderful Christmas” or any genuine expression that specifically says
Christmas. This applies to Christian and non-Christian friends alike (and
strangers too). For a specifically Jewish friend, I also say, “Happy
Hanukkah” because that’s exactly what I mean. Or I say, “Happy New Year”
because I truly do hope you will have a wonderful year coming. Or I say,
“Happy Birthday” because it’s your special day and I truly hope you’ll have a
real nice and personally special day in whatever way you want it to be.
So guess what else, I say “Happy Holidays” because I want you to have a
happy holiday, whatever holiday you pick out, for it to be happy. Pick out
whichever one you want it to apply to because “happy holidays” is a generic
greeting and you can apply it however you want to. It’s a happy greeting and
it carries whatever meaning you want. Personally, I choose to be quite
specific in my greeting because I want you to know exactly what I mean - at
Christmas I really hope you’ll feel and experience the joy and beauty of the
season, to receive the love of God’s gift to all of us, and you in
particular. On Thanksgiving I’m specific in wishing for you a share in the
bounty of this blessed land and a true measure of the prosperity that is ours
as Americans. On your birthday, I’ve already explained that I’m specific that
this is your day and not just another holiday lumped together with all others
to be happy.
So, I do wish you “Happy Holidays.” But far more than that, since it’s
Christmas as I write, I wish for you “Merry Christmas.” May you really
experience the joy and full meaning of the season. Also, “Happy New Year.”
May you really have a wonderful, prosperous, and healing year of 2009. For my
Jewish friends, “Happy Hanukkah.” May you experience the meaning of the
season as you light your candles and celebrate the freedoms which your day
God bless y’all. God loves you. So do I.