The keynote speaker said, "I see you," which prompted a reply from the audience, "It's good to be seen."

I remember a few other things from that keynote speaker and not much else from the conference, but their simple statement hit home. We have a need to be acknowledged by other people, to be understood, and to be appreciated for who we are. We need to know that we matter. When we are "seen," it means that we are honored as a person. Our struggles are recognized, and we are met with openness, patience and sensitivity. Our story is ours to tell. When we are "seen," we have the freedom to be ourselves without any preconceived notions or judgments. In today's world, we are rarely "seen." If 2020 has shown us anything, it's that isolation can make us feel invisible. Years of pent up injustice can detonate and break open wounds. Defensiveness and vulnerability can make us uncomfortable. I see you. I hear you, too.

Excellent articles, Facebook posts, and Twitter feeds have emerged about the importance of race relations. Black Lives Matter, Native Lives Matter, and Blue Lives Matter, too. There is a lot of work that is to be done to bring healing and understanding to our chaotic world. While that hard work is happening, I want to have a parallel conversation, one that focuses on each of us exactly where we are. I want you to know that you matter. "You Matter" because no one in the world was created exactly like you. "You matter," have a purpose, can seek beauty and joy, and have a story and voice that needs to be heard. "You Matter" and are valuable as a human. I appreciate that even before COVID-19, many people were struggling with depression, anxiety, and other forms of mental illness. I care that the last few months have brought about agonizing hardships for many people, isolation, disparity, division, and discouragement. I understand that you are tired, and want you to know you are not alone.

The "You Matter" movement is not political in any way; it simply honors a fellow human by saying, "I see you." It's good to be seen. We need to know that what we do and who we are have a purpose, our breath is precious, and our presence would be missed. Our efforts are important, our values are respected, and our lives matter. This is grace, kindness, openness, and hope. As humans, we need to be seen and to know that we have made a difference. The #YouMatterBemidji campaign is one component of the Suicide Prevention Program and the Run/Walk/Skate for Suicide Prevention that will be happening virtually this summer. It is about telling others that they matter and are worthy of respect. The campaign is about giving hope.

#YouMatterBemidji encourages sidewalk chalk art (and all art) that shares the message "You Matter." It is about kind deeds, paying it forward, creating space and place to tell employees, customers, family, friends, strangers that they matter. It's about igniting a flame of hope and healing alongside the tough work that is already being done. Will you take the challenge?

To learn more about this movement, visit www.bemidjirunwalkskate.org and click on the "You Matter Chalk Challenge" to see what has already been done. Be inspired, pay it forward, and message us with your pictures, videos, and art. Find us on Facebook at Kelly@Evergreen and Instagram at #umatter2evergreen. See others, give hope and perhaps even save a life. #YouMatterBemidji, and I see you.

Kelly Brevig is Suicide Educational Services Coordinator with Evergreen Youth and Family Services.