Several people have talked to me lately about a common problem they are having. Each one has mentioned feeling “invisible.” All are feeling overshadowed by someone. One fades into the background while her husband shines in the spotlight. Another feels like she trudges along at work, watching others receive promotions and accolades. Yet another, who volunteers thousands of hours for various charities, expressed sadness at never being recognized while other, more high-profile volunteers (who volunteer just a few hours) win awards for their service. Like these people, I sometimes feel invisible in various settings. I can sometimes feel sorry for myself if I focus on how my accomplishments stack up against others.
When I find myself in this mode of thinking, it helps me to remember my Mom. Humility was a very high value for her. If there was anything she ever disciplined us for, it was for being arrogant or prideful. “Who do you think you are, the Queen of Sheba,” she would say, bringing us down to earth. My Mom was a giver, always eager to lend a helping hand. And yet, she never won any awards. A dinner was never held in her honor. She was never given an honorary degree or a position of honor. She did not seek or want the spotlight. She was happy being in the background, helping others to achieve their dreams.
Like the people I mentioned earlier, my Mom saw herself as an invisible person, as a person in the background, as a “worker bee.” She did not see this as a position to feel bad about. Her role model was Jesus, the servant of all. She embraced humility and invisibility in a joyful way. In one conversation, she told me that she tried to make herself invisible so that others could shine – my Dad, myself, my sisters and brother, her friends, the customers at her shop, those she volunteered with. When I was younger, I did not understand the value this humility brought to everyone and everything she touched. Selfishly, I wanted more for my own life – more rewards, more recognition, more significant accomplishments.
When my Mom died, our entire county mourned the loss. Every flower shop for miles around ran out of flowers. The funeral home was packed to over-capacity as people came to say their farewells to this wonderful, unassuming woman. Person after person after person came up to me and told me how much they loved my Mom. I heard so many people say, “She was my best friend. I don’t know what I will do without her.” I understood, then, the power of servanthood, the value of being a person who listened and loved others and let others shine.
I have come to value the way of life my mother chose,and to try to live a servant lifestyle. Still, I must admit, I do not live it as gracefully as my mother did. Pangs of jealousy rear up inside me when others are honored or promoted or thanked. When my friends talk to me about their own struggles, I find myself reciting my own tales of being overlooked. In my Dream book, I wrote “Win An Award” as one of my dreams, because I am prideful enough to want to have a spotlight shined on my at some point in my life. I am glad that I have my Mom’ memory to keep these desires in check. I am glad to have had a role model for a life of service and love. I am glad that my Mom taught me that the words “She was a wonderful friend” are more valuable than the words “She had a really important job.”
I am going to strive to remember the value of invisibility and embrace humility more tightly. If I can become more like my mother, I will grow to be a better person, a more giving person, a more selfless person, a more loving person. I hope that this can become more natural for me. I hope that, when friends and coworkers and acquaintances express their own displeasure at being overshadowed, I can somehow articulate the joys of a life of humility and live out those joys in my own life.