This morning I had to wait behind a school bus as it stopped to pick up children from the homeless shelter.
Outside the building’s front doors, I watched two jovial young men having an animated conversation while an older gentleman hovered near the wall deep in contemplation–or perhaps still in a morning haze–with his weathered hands wrapped around a steaming mug held close to his heart. As traffic began to move again, I passed a woman probably about my age walking slowly and uncertainly. She had bright, round, brown eyes that, in the few seconds that I had, revealed what looked like a sense of disbelief. She had not resigned to accepting this current state as her life. I almost stopped to invite her to join me for a coffee. Instead, I continued on, as did she, in her dusty blue pea coat and a still-white quilt folded with obvious care draped over her crossed arms. As she faded into the rearview, I wondered if that blanket was a family heirloom.
As I arrived home to begin my work, I took assessment of my abode. It is not extravagant, but it has stocked cupboards, clean water, and solid foundations. It took me back to my days as a young girl riding the school bus, and recalling the ineffable wrenching in my chest when we stopped in front of one particular house and the condescending, almost amused comments would start to raise out of the chatter as two sisters stepped from their home, the tarpaper roof giving way to windows bereft of any warm glow in the cold early twilight. The comments were always quick to silence as the girls boarded, but consistently left my mind and heart feeling as though they were underwater while wondering how life doled out such privilege and iniquity.
As I began to gather my thoughts toward the work ahead of me today, I scrolled through my facebook feed, full of aspiring entrepreneurs posting with a mix of excitement and insecurity. I wondered how many of them opened their laptop and even took note that it existed. With internet. In their home. And I wondered how differently we would all approach the way we work and serve our roles, if it began with a deep gratitude.
It is possible to have deep gratitude and still hold a kernel of the fear of losing it all. Of not having enough. Of not being enough. We may practice gratitude daily and count our gifts, but here’s where I think many people get it wrong.
We talk about people “having a gift,” whether its athletic, academic, or artistic talent or just a way of speaking and connecting with others, but we think of that Gift as being something divinely or genetically gifted to us, but that gift is not for you. It is your Gift to the World.
When you have this Gift to give, (and you do) and you shift your worry from not having enough to not giving enough, that is when your life will begin to truly feel fulfilled.
We all have a Gift; for some, it just takes effort to find it. But I know the shortcut.
Take time to do things for your Self. Allow yourself to gravitate toward activities that bring you both joy and a sense of accomplishment. Let go of attachment to perfection and comparison regarding the outcome. Welcome the nurturing and growth within the act itself. You will find your gift there, waiting for you to unwrap it and share it with the world.
I encourage you to embrace this oft-neglected realm of the inner child, the one who is eager to explore, who still looks at the world with a sense of wonder and amazement, pointing excitedly about your discoveries to anyone who will glance your way; you become more connected with your true Self. You will find that any successful* person still chooses to spend time in this realm, playing with their child-Self. No magic formula, no strategy, no upper-class upbringing, no diploma nor certification took them to their success–otherwise anyone with similar privilege would be seeing the same results. Rather, it is their time spent connecting inwardly with their Gift that allows them to then take action (using their externally acquired knowledge) from a place of authenticity that is innate and inimitable.
Find your Gift, and embrace it for all its seeming imperfection, incompletion, or insignificance. Forget about having enough, know that you are enough, and ask if you are giving enough. That is where you will find success.
*Success is such a truly subjective idea. For the sake of clarity, in this instance, I am using it to mean accomplishing a desired purpose or state of being through honest and ethical means. There are many people who proclaim “success,” yet live in a world depleted of simply joy, and amass only wealth or status through means that are authentically bankrupt and morally corrupt. These people do not fit my definition of successful.