Before my husband Brent and I began dating in college, we would hang out as friends as a part of a larger group. Sometimes we would play putt-putt or go out to eat or go to a park. On one occasion, we were all sitting around in the living room which belonged to the parents of one of our friends. We had watched a movie, and we were about to head back to school. Before we left, our friend shared something she was upset about and began crying. Brent was nearest to where she was lying on the floor, so he scooted closer to her and listened intently to what she was saying.
Though it was nearly 30 years ago, I remember so clearly watching that moment from where I sat on a nearby sofa. We hadn’t started dating yet, but I was already falling for Brent, and this display of kindness and consideration pushed me right over the edge. I don’t think I was necessarily jealous of my friend, but I did wonder what it would feel like to be the recipient of his attention to the degree I was seeing in that living room.
Even a person who detests standing in the center of the spotlight and fiercely shrinks from attention still wants to be noticed by someone. It’s wired into our brains to want to be seen and heard at least by the key people in our lives.
Years ago, I remember reading a question sent in to “Dear Abby” by a 13-year old girl. The girl mentioned that she felt invisible and that no one ever called to invite her to hang out. Generally considered to be a shy girl, she wanted high school to be different than middle school had been, and she was seeking advice. I searched for the column and found “Dear Abby’s” response:
No matter how you feel about yourself, everyone can be charming. Charm, in a nutshell, is putting the other person at ease and making her (or him) feel comfortable and important. The charming person makes the effort to make others feel good about themselves. Forming the habit of making others feel good will make you popular to be around.
I don’t know if the young teen girl took the advice (and possibly purchased Dear Abby’s booklet “How to Be Popular: You’re Never Too Young or Too Old” for $6.00), but I agree with her advice…to a point. It seems a little self-serving. It sounds like she’s telling “Alone and Shy in California” to be charming so that she can get what she wants—popularity. Maybe it’s the word charming. We don’t use it much now, and when we do, it sounds a bit superficial.
My own personal Prince Charming showed concern for our friend that night (and continues to do the same thing for me and others all these years later) with no strings attached. He isn’t kind to be popular. He isn’t considerate to be rewarded. He does it because it’s right and in line with the One he’s trying to model his life after.
It’s like our moms used to tell us: “If you want to have a friend, be a friend.” Or as a radio D.J. I listen to always says: “The world is full of nice people. If you can’t find one…BE ONE!” Whether or not that makes you popular is secondary. What matters is how you make the world a better place.