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[mk_blockquote style=”quote-style” font_family=”none” text_size=”14″ align=”left”]Here is a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He worked in a carpenter shop until he was thirty, and then for three years he was an itinerant preacher. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never owned a home. He never had a family. He never went to college. He never put his foot inside a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place where he was born. He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but Himself. … Nineteen wide centuries have come and gone and today … I am within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, and all the navies that ever were built, and all the parliaments that ever sat, and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has that One Solitary Life. — James C. Hefley[/mk_blockquote]
I was 13 years old, sitting in Radio City Music Hall watching the Christmas Spectacular, when I first heard these words. They were read by a deep-voiced announcer during the show’s Living Nativity – complete with sheep, goats and camels. I wasn’t very religious at the time, though I did believe there was a God that made this world and all of us in it. I was a little lost, trying to find my place in a new world, having moved from my childhood home in Houston to New Canaan, CT just a few months prior to our New York City holiday adventure. Despite my young age and dazzled state at the spectacle unfolding before me, these words touched me deeply and stuck with me as few have since.
It was 22 years later when I next heard them. This time I was sitting in a pew at my new church’s Christmas Pageant. While this particular living nativity lacked camels, it did have sheep and goats. I had very recently felt drawn to explore my faith within a structured setting, but was still quite new to the whole “church thing.” Interestingly, I was again a little lost – this time trying to figure out who I was and what I was here for other than nursing babies and keeping house (or trying to). Again, despite the lovely scene unfolding before me, what touched my heart most profoundly were these words. As soon as the narrator began reading, I knew I’d heard them before. And I knew they held great meaning for me.
12 years later, just a few weeks ago in fact, without warning, echoes of these words started to bubble around in my head. I searched the internet endlessly trying to find the quote. Without knowing who wrote them or even how exactly the passage began or ended, this took some doing. But – finally – I found them again. My whoop of success when they popped up on my computer screen drew my husband and kids to my office. As I read them aloud, tears sprung to my eyes and goosebumps popped up on my skin. These are powerful words indeed.
“He had no credentials but himself.”
Whether you are Christian or not, whether you practice religion or just try your best to live a good life, the story told by these words can inspire you to stretch and grow into the person you were created to be. Even for a non-Christian, imagining that one man, who lived a rather small life in a very small town, could still be touching the world over 2000 years later because he was strong enough and brave enough and true enough to Just Be Himself is awe inspiring. His message – “In all that you do, love your God and love one another.” – is still with us today because he never once wavered from being fully, wholly, completely the man that he was created to be.
By being purely himself, he gave the world a gift we’re still receiving. While, they may be stars to his sun, I can think of others who have shined the lights of their selves remarkably brightly. Mahatma Ghandi. Mother Theresa. Maya Angelou. I’m sure you can add to the list. In fact, I’d love to know who springs to your mind. In other words, it is not impossible for someone just like you or me to make a huge difference in this world Just By Being Yourself.
If you’re anything like me, it can be something of a challenge to figure out who you are and what you’re here for. In fact, these are the questions asked by all seekers. And even those who have been blessed with answers will continue to ask – as asking these questions is truly the only way to ensure that you will continue to stretch into the person it is possible for you to be. Seekers (yes, if you’ve gotten this far into this essay, you are a seeker) find answers to these questions in many places and through many activities. Prayer. Meditation. Inspirational reading. Journaling. Poetry. Yoga. Activities that require us to set aside time to turn within, to listen to the nudges, pulls and even yearnings of our spirit.
After all, if we’re not listening, we can’t respond.
It is when we respond to our deepest yearnings – religious folks would say these are our callings – that we begin to live the lives we were meant to live. What if you were able to find work that utilized your natural gifts and talents? What if you were somehow able to find a way to apply these talents not only to make a good living for yourself but to the benefit of others? What if you made time in your life to pursue the things that make your heart sing? What if you were able to share these things with others? What if, somehow, by doing what you love and what you’re good at, you were able to meet one of the world’s needs?
I’ll answer these questions for you: You would be giving the world a tremendous gift – the gift of you. A fringe benefit is that this is a gift that you receive too. You will never be as contented and fulfilled, you will never be as happy, and you will never feel less lost as when you allow who you truly are to dictate how you live and what you do.
In this season of giving, remember that the very best gift you can give is the gift of You – your talents, your passions, your time, and your love. While you may feel too small, too remote, too insignificant to possibly make a difference, this is simply not true. Like the other bright lights that have come before you, your light is shining on the lives of everyone around you – those you know and love, those you just know and those you haven’t met yet.
Seek on and shine brightly.