What Makes an Important Person

I want to tell you a secret.

But first, let’s start with the magazines at the airport newsstand. Those magazines that are covered with important people.

Or so they would have us believe.

Important, by the magazine’s criteria, means has a lot of the right things: money, power, fame, good looks of a certain kind.

And as I look up at the racks of these giants - who stare beautifully, powerfully, wealthily down at me - I am seduced hook, line, and sinker. I want to be important like them. Which is the whole game, isn’t it? Their importance sells magazines.

But there’s a gnaw in my gut as I flip through those glossy, unblemished pages. I never feel good looking at these important people. I feel not accomplished enough, not attractive enough, not toned enough, not important enough. By a magazine cover’s standards, important people are the ones who make us feel like we’re not enough. And if that’s the criteria for what makes someone important, I want no part of it.

So what if we grabbed the pen and rewrote the criteria? Made it more meaningful, interesting, life-affirming.

An important person, according to me, is:

Someone who makes us feel like we are important.

Someone who is beholden to values that are bigger, more beautiful than fame, power, cash, looking good.

Someone who chooses to care when others have stopped, or never started.

Someone who makes art that inspires us or a meal that nourishes us. Someone who gives hugs that restore us and an ear that hears us.

Maybe you’d come up with a whole different set of criteria - and that’s terrific. But I bet your criteria and my criteria wouldn’t have much to do with selling magazines.

So, here’s that brilliant secret no one talks about: We are born important. The world is forever changed for our entering into it. Each room is forever changed for our walking into it. It doesn’t get a whole lot more important than that.

We can buy the magazines at the airport newsstands. But we don’t need to buy the small idea of importance they’re selling. We need only remember the brilliant secret. And then spread it around.

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Caitie Whelan