Here is the full transcript of Choose2Matter founder, Angela Maiers’ TEDx Talk titled “You Matter” at TEDxDesMoines.
Listen to the MP3 Audio here: Angela Maiers Presents You Matter at TEDxDesMoines
Two words. These two words can change your mood, they can change your mind, they can change your heart.
I’m going to make the case today, that these two words can change lives and change the world, if we understand them and we leverage them in the right way.
This is not an ego thing. This is a DNA thing. We were created for significance. And one of the most dangerous things that can happen to us as individuals, as organizations, as a community, is the feeling that we don’t matter.
On Tuesday of this week, I was 14 hours with these significant people. I was stranded at the airport in Milwaukee, and we weren’t feeling very significant that day. The looks on our face were just craziness, because we had spent 14 hours, not knowing if we were going to get home, there was a huge storm, there were no cars, there were no hotel rooms, there was something that this world series kind of thing going on in the world, something unimportant and insignificant and we were desperate.
Not simply desperate to get home, which we were, but desperate for a human being to look us in the eye, and say to us, “You matter.” I see you as a human being.
Think about the last time you heard those words, as a human being: “You matter.”
“You were indispensable.”
“You were a genius.”
“I couldn’t have done it without you.”
“I couldn’t have made it without you.”
“I’ll do whatever it takes, because you are that important.”
Those are life changing words, and for us, those were the words that we were hanging on.
We were desperate. It was nearly midnight. We were going to have to sleep on the floor of the airport, until we met Annie.
And Annie finally looked us in the eye and saw a single mom with two kids. And she saw a family of five with a baby that hadn’t eaten for hours. And she saw two college students, and a honeymoon couple and she saw me, desperate to get to home, to get here.
And she said, “I see you. I’ll do whatever it takes.” Now, she couldn’t work the world, she couldn’t stop the rain from coming, and she couldn’t make a hotel room appear. But she noticed us and she said we are going to help you.
And after she got everyone settled, I found Annie right before she was going to leave, and I grabbed her and I said, “Annie, thank you so much for making us feel significant. You noticed we were in the incumbent area of the airport, I don’t know what that is, but it’s not a good place to be. It’s not where significant cargo goes.”
And she started crying, and I’m like we are all crying because we hadn’t slept or eaten – And I said, “I want to call your supervisor. I want to write in and I want to do something, I want to tell them what you did today really mattered to us.”
And she said, “It’s not going to matter. I am the supervisor. Nobody cares what I do.”
In fact, she said, “I don’t know the last time that I’ve heard someone say they cared about what I did.”
She said, “I actually want to thank you.”
And I walked away and I got home and I got settled in and I couldn’t get Annie out of my mind. I can’t put her picture in because apparently that’s against TSA regulations, I tried to. She’s like, “No, no , I’ll get fired.”
So just imagine Annie, because Annie is every single person in this room. Annie is the person at your work. Annie is the person in your neighborhood. Annie could be you, sitting there wondering, working and living and learning in a place where they do not feel significant, where they do not feel like “No matter what I do, no matter how hard I work, no matter what I accomplish, is there anybody in the world that is going to notice me and is going to care that I got up and I showed up today?”
That is a tragedy. Because we, as human beings, have the power to change that. It is an incredible, significant power that we choose not to act upon in the busy-ness of our lives. We forget these two simple words and omit them from our conversation and from our priority. I want us to change that. Because people that matter know that when they are noticed, when they are valued, and they are depended on.
Those are three lessons that have been the foundation of my work as an educator for 22 years. No student ever would leave my classroom, I would not be doing my job, if they didn’t know they were noticed. If they didn’t understand why they were such a value to my classroom and to other students and that I could trust and depend on them. These are not lessons that are just simply reserved for the classroom. These are lessons that every single one of us must take and have the opportunity and obligation to take into your classroom, your boardroom or your community, your neighborhood.
I’m going to show you what those look like and sound like as you navigate through the world. As a writer, noticing is a big part of my job, so I never go anywhere without my writer’s notebook. I’m constantly writing. I spend a lot of time in weird places, like airports, and I’m writing all the stories, the people I meet, the incredible lessons that I get just by waking up in the morning. I keep track of them and I fill notebook after notebook after notebook.
I got the chance to be in a school, it was an outside school from kindergarten through eighth grade. And of course, I had my notebook and it didn’t take the students very long to notice after every classroom that I was walking through, they were like coming up to me. “What did you write in notebook today?” What did you write in notebook today?
I said, “Oh, I witnessed a genius. I absolutely witnessed something indispensable to your learning. So I would write it down.”
And they are like “Really?”, and then I put names in it.
“Oh my gosh, I know that person.”
And then the next day, I got to be there for two weeks, so the next day they come up and they start handing me post-it notes. “Here, while I was out, I noticed you might want to put this in your notebook.”
And I thought “Wow” and after a couple of days I thought, “Well, this is silly, I’ve got this gold in my notebook.”
I asked the superintendent if I could spend the first two minutes going into every grade level, in every classroom just for two minutes today. Just give me two minutes a day. And all I’m going to do is go and read my notebook with the morning messages. “Today boys and girls, this is what your assignment is, oh by the way, I have to tell you what I noticed yesterday. Alicia did something amazing. When I saw her working on her writing dada dada da — Oh my gosh, you guys, you would not believe this. I noticed a third grader doing this yesterday –“