For quite some time now, the volatile debate over which lives matter has captured headlines and hijacked my Facebook newsfeed. Black lives matter. White lives matter. Blue lives matter. All lives matter. (kind of sounds like a line from a Dr. Seuss book, doesn’t it?) I do understand why this has become such an emotionally charged issue, and my intent here is not to make light of the subject. But in a culture where so many are quick to jump on the band wagon based on sound bites and social media memes, I’d like to suggest that we actually think a little before leaping into the fray!.
The question I began exploring was pretty simple: What does it actually mean to “matter”? Used as a noun, matter refers to the substance of all things in the physical realm. Based on that, we could confidently affirm that all lives are matter. However, since the same can be said of rocks and dog poo, that’s probably not what everyone’s marching and yelling about. The verb to matter means to be of importance or significance. That’s probably what all the ruckus is about.
So, are all lives important or significant? I guess that would depend on how you define a life. There are a few different perspectives worth looking at. If a life is referring to the individual person, then maybe “all lives matter” is true. After all, everyone is important or significant to someone, even if it’s only to their mother. Life can also mean the mere state of existing. In that context, I can philosophically concede that “all life matters”. After all, according to the Declaration of Independence, life is one of the three inalienable rights with which our Creator has endowed us. (and who am I to argue with our founding fathers?) Maybe the most important defining context of a life should have more to do with how we actually live it. Every tombstone is engraved with two dates separated by a dash. The beginning and the end. That dash in the middle is sort of a “fill-in-the-blank” if you think about it. Maybe the real question is whether or not what we do with this God given life is of importance or significance. Based on that perspective, the color of your skin (or uniform) or the mere fact that you’re breathing, doesn’t necessarily qualify you for the membership in the “all lives matter” club. I think most everyone would agree that Mother Teresa exemplified a life that mattered. She spent her entire life giving all that she had in service to the poor. However, she would have been the first to say that her life was of no more importance or significance than the lives of those she served. Perhaps loving others and valuing their needs above our own is what really matters.
I’m not saying that if you’re not like Mother Teresa, then you don’t deserve to live or that your life has no meaning. What I am suggesting is the necessity of searching for some meaning in our lives. Mark Twain wrote, “The two most important days in your life are the day you were born, and day you find out why.” The closer I get to the end of my “dash”, I find myself concerned more and more with finding this “why”. Have I spent my life trying to make a living or making a difference? Have I chased after success at the expense of striving for significance? Have I added anything of value to the lives of others? There was a time in my life when trying to answer these questions led me to the inescapable conclusion that I didn’t matter. Pondering the options of “to be or not to be” was no more difficult than trying to choose between the McChicken or the McDouble on the dollar menu. I certainly haven’t become eligible for sainthood since then, but to the extent that my focus has shifted more toward what I’m giving to this life, and less on what’s in it for me, by that measure alone, I think my life matters.
Have you figured your “why” yet? How are you “filling in the blank” between your beginning and your end? Is there anything of importance or significance that you can add to the “dash”? Maybe you think, “I’ll never be able to do anything great.” You might be able to do something bigger than you think! Sometimes something as simple as a smile can make a huge difference. A little kindness and a word of encouragement can save a life. An act of compassion and an attitude of empathy just might be powerful enough to change the world. I believe you just might matter more than you think!
As always, I’d love for this to be more of a conversation and not just me slinging some rant out there into cyber space! Please leave your thoughts, ideas or questions in the comment section. If you have found anything of value in my ramblings, I’d really appreciate it if you shared it with someone. See you next week!