This weekend, I read (devoured) The Other Wes Moore, a book about the divergent fates of two very similar young men with the same name. It was an incredible book that enlightened me in a number of ways and left me wondering- Am I squandering the few opportunities I have to contribute productively to something greater than myself ? In the book, Wes Moore raises this question as it relates to incarcerated men who have “flagrantly-and tragically-squandered the few opportunities they’d had to contribute productively to something greater than themselves,” but I believe that it applies even to those of us who feel as though the world we inhabit is worlds away from the lives of those men.
At first I thought “I’m not really part of anything bigger than myself,” but then I realized that I was completely wrong. Even if you don’t realize it, you are already part of something greater than yourself:
- Your community, your city, your state.
- Your sorority, your college, your alumni network.
- Your choir, your religion, your church.
- Your office, your division, your company.
The list goes on and on. Even if you’re “just a blogger“, you are part of a community of writers and a movement that has revolutionized the fashion and marketing industries, among other things. You have the power to make a difference even if doesn’t always feel that way.
Your words make a difference and your actions make a difference. When people look at you, they don’t just see you, they see all that you represent. Growing up, my parents pounded that lesson into my head and it felt (and frequently still feels) like an overwhelming burden. I don’t want to be the prototype for whatever labels society decides to slap on me, I just want to be myself. Reflecting on this question, however, made me wonder- what if I stop looking at it as a burden and start to view it as an opportunity? Because I am whoever (and whatever) I am, I can make a change, however small, that might create a ripple effect. You don’t have to start the next great movement, but being more mindful about your status as a role model for people around you might change their lives in ways that enable them to change the world (and that was not a dig at Hannah Montana having turned horrifying, really, I promise!).
What opportunities do you have to contribute productively to something greater than yourself and how are you doing it?