I recently had the chance to have dinner with a small group of amazing nonprofit leaders. Our host gave us all a gift by asking us to start the meal by going around the table and each sharing why we do this work.
Each member of the group was honest and open, and, in listening to story after story, I began to see that they were all essentially the same.
They were stories about role models, whether a mother or a grandfather, a teacher, a social worker, a friend.
Stories of seeing their own relative good fortune – because everybody is more fortunate than somebody.
Stories of the call to serve.
Stories of stubbornness in the face of the impossible.
Stories of discovering that their talents can be used for good.
Stories of getting hooked on the feeling of making meaningful change.
And stories of them fighting each day to keep walking the path and making a difference.
You may think, in hearing this, that these are other people’s stories, that you are still seeking out your purpose and your role, that others have arrived while you are still looking.
I ask that you consider two things:
- That you are on the path already. There is no moment of arrival. It is your job to keep walking, to keep listening, to push yourself to go closer to what is real so you can understand it, because understanding is the precursor to being useful. It’s also your job to invest in building the skills and the self-knowledge you will need to make a real difference – including confronting your fears and your self-imposed limitations.
- You don’t know it, but you are already inspiring others. The courage to look, to listen, to care, to dream – all of this already sets you apart. Each of the stories I heard started at a very young age, and the path from there to today was never straight.