To try and count the number of conversations I've had about my purpose would be comparable with trying to count the number of hairs on my head. I struggle for vision. I struggle for clarity. I long for both. I don’t want to merely exist. I also don’t want to live this life as if it is all about me. I want to make a difference. I want to see lives transformed. Where is my place? What is my purpose? How can I use the gifts I've been given?
Most of my conversations with myself end something like, “There are already a lot of people who write and speak. Do we really need one more book? Does speaking at an event even make a difference”? Discouraged and worn out from the never ending circle of words in my head I go on with my day but it won’t be long before the conversation once more begins. There has to be an answer to the reoccurring questions within. I don’t want to settle. I can’t settle. I won’t settle.
I don’t remember where I was but I do remember that the conversation ended different this time. People! Places! Experiences! Yes, it takes many people, many places and many experiences to bring about transformation. It takes many people, many places and many experiences to mold and shape a life. I’m just one person, at a certain place, creating an experience. It is possible that what I write and say will be the one thing someone needs to hear at that moment in time. It is possible that the experience I offer another is what they need to help them take their next step of faith.
Many people, many places, many experiences is such a simple truth that has greatly impacted my journey. It has freed me from the fear of being replaced and from the need to compare myself to others. The circling thoughts that kept me from taking steps toward living out my dreams have become fewer in number as the beauty of a bigger story has unfolded. I worry less about my purpose and dream more about what togetherness can accomplish. No longer do I feel desperate to discover what I need to do but I think more about how I can help others discover their dreams.
Sometimes my work day involves the mindless task of updating our database or other tasks that don’t require much concentration so I plug in my headphones and listen to music. But one day I chose to listen to a Ted Talk and then another and another. A woman who rowed across all four oceans. A man from Afghanistan risking his life to repair and create artificial limbs for war victims. Men walking to the South Pole. A woman sharing about her escape from North Korea. I've been moved to tears, I've been inspired and most of all I've been reminded that life is a journey and we need many people, many places and many experiences along the way.
Togetherness is somewhat of a foreign concept. We live very “I, Me, My” centered lives. It’s up to me to figure out my path in life. It’s up to me to figure out how to get everything accomplished. It’s up to me to stay strong and carry on. It is my comfort that I try and secure. It is my future that I think the most about. It’s my time, my money and my choice on how I spend it. Thinking like this limits us. We think that investing and relying in ourselves will build a bigger and better life but in the end we find a much smaller story. We have put up walls so others can’t steal our ideas or try to get the credit for what we did. We cling to relationships and keep a closed circle in fear that someone might step in and replace us. We work hard to be set apart and noticed. Maybe we are not that conscious about the way we do these things but I think our culture influences us to live for the big “I, Me, My”. But I’m finally discovering that it is really more about the “we and us.” I’m realizing it takes more than one person, more than one place and more than one experience. I’m learning that togetherness builds stronger lives and communities.
Maybe you have struggled with vision or clarity. Maybe you have asked how you can use your gifts. Maybe you have ended conversations by saying, “there are already a lot of (fill in the blank)_______, does the world really need one more?” I encourage you to consider that the answer is yes. Just because there are a lot of teachers doesn't mean that you shouldn't be one. You never know how you might impact that one student. Just because there are a lot of artists doesn't mean you shouldn't be one. Your art might just be the missing piece of beauty that another needs. I could go on and on because there are many people already doing many things. But mostly I want to encourage you to think about the bigger story. We are each one person, at a certain place, creating experiences. Together we help transform, mold and shape the lives of one another. Together we can write a bigger story.