Two Mondays ago on a flight to San Francisco, I started a conversation with a lady sitting next to me. We small talked at first, but then the conversation transitioned to what we both did for a living. To my surprise, she told me that she was the financial account manager for a couple of music groups that ranged from Def Leppard to Digital Underground, which is a reason I was in awe because I grew up listening to those two artists. Even now, I may get into an 80’s rock mood and blast “Pour Some Sugar on Me” through my car’s stereo.
She was also surprised when I told her what I did for a living: keynote speaker and college professor. I am guessing it was due to the fact that I do not fit the stereotypical look of a college professor and probably not one of a keynote speaker either: Cubs World Series snapback, jeans, a Notorious B.I.G. t-shirt, and Air Jordans. Regardless of the reason of why she was surprised, one thing has stayed with me from our conversation and it is this:
“We need more people like you to speak to our youth,” she said emphatically after wondering why in the world I was going to Concord, California and not staying in San Francisco for business. Little did she know, the youth are my business, and as I continued telling her how the event was organized, how the high school activities director found me on YouTube, and how this is more than a job for me, she could immediately tell: empowering youth is my purpose.
I have thought a lot about what she said. “We need more people like you to speak to our youth.” The reason is because her statement is absolutely true. Our young people are going through difficult times, dealing with a wide range of issues from racism, to worries about the recent presidential election, to the cost of higher education. Additionally, they are facing personal troubles that range from self-esteem concerns, to family drama, to peer pressure, bullying, and to even wondering:
“Is my life even worth living?”
“Is my life worth the challenges I am facing?”
“Is my life worth the pain and loneliness that I feel and that no one else may have no idea about?”
The answer to those questions is: Absolutely, it is! Young people may not see their life is worth living because a majority of them have tunnel vision, meaning they cannot see past tomorrow due to their limited point of view.
The challenges they face. The pain and loneliness they experience. They think these temporary feelings and situations are here to stay, and that they are the only ones who have ever experienced struggles, which we know is not the case. However, if they continue with this train of thought, it can lead them to make decisions that five to ten years from now, they may regret. So, how will our young people know that they CAN press forward in life and that their life has worth?
We all have a story, and I firmly believe that everyone, including you, is in a position to impact the lives of those around us. Students, co-workers, siblings, peers, you can make a difference in their lives. How? By sharing your story of how you overcame your challenges.
One of the greatest treasures we all have is our life story. There is reassurance when you reveal to others that life may not always turn out the way we plan it to. Yet, that fact does not mean that our lives are not capable of accomplishing great things. And it sure does not mean that our lives are not worth living.
Our young people need us. Maybe, you won’t fly to another city to share your story. Truth be told, you don’t have to. Right where you are today, you can be a beacon of hope to a young person. You can be the bridge that takes them from failure to success. You can stand in the gap for them. You can make a difference.
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