They say there is an African tribe where, when a woman is pregnant, she goes into the jungle with the other women of the village, and together they pray and meditate until they discover that child’s song.When that child is born, the community gathers to sing his song. And at each of the major stages of his life, they will sing his song–as he becomes a man, marries, and finally as he meets death to accompany him on the journey. When that child commits an anti-social act, the community will not focus on or be fooled by the mistakes or the dark, broken or ugly places within him but will gather around him in a circle to sing him his song, for the answer is not punishment but to remind him of his true identity, his unique place in the community.
This is such a lovely picture of service and community and being seen and valued as a unique individual. Many of us long for that place. But in this world in which we find ourselves, often we don’t know our song. Or we sing someone else’s song. Or our song is drowned out. Or we are too busy, distracted, or afraid to sing our song. Or, frankly, we just mouth the words.
Today, make sure to sing your song. It’s not about whether you sing on key or whether your song is ready for a band tour. It’s about authenticity and offering the gifts that you uniquely have to offer. Sing away, little bird.
Each individual’s gifts and strengths are as unique as a fingerprint. Among us are leaders and creators; thinkers and doers; warriors and nurturers. Finding your strengths and using them in service is one of our life’s challenges. When we remember that there is no one right answer to this question, no shoulds, no musts, but only what is, we can soar.
There are things in this life that break us. Usually they involve some sort of loss-of health, of life, of relationship, of stuff. Despair is a crippler. You can’t breathe; you can’t think; you can’t see a way out. The world becomes very small until it feels like you are living in a tiny bubble apart from everything and everyone, floating along fragile in your pain. At times like these, you have to force yourself to hope and to push through. Start with your breath. In and out, in and out, until it is smooth and full, rather than broken with the catch in your throat from the threatening cry. Keep at that, smooth and full, smooth and full, smooth and full until you can open your eyes and start noticing beauty, maybe, at first, in the tiniest of things. A drop of dew on the grass, the feel of breeze on your skin, laughter of a child, a bud of a flower, birds in flight. Keep at it. No one said it would be easy. Keep at it. Smooth and full, smooth and full, smooth and full.
Benjamin Franklin’s parents could afford to educate him only until he was 10; he took it from there. Abraham Lincoln lost far more political battles than he won. Oprah Winfrey lost a child when she was 14. Many writers, like J.K. Rowling and Stephen King, were rejected dozens of times before they ever sold a story.
History is full of people who initially failed but ultimately succeeded, perhaps at something wildly different than what they first started. There is value in an obstacle if you can see it with the right eyes– eyes that look for what is to be learned from the struggle, eyes that value determination and resilience, eyes that look for opportunity.
Which of your obstacles are really gateways to something better?
One of Diana’s Ross’s songs has these lyrics:
“Do you know where you’re going to?
Do you like the things that life is showing you?
Where are you going to, do you know?
Do you get what you’re hoping for?
When you look behind you there’s no open door.
What are you hoping for, do you know?”
The lyrics are a good wake-up call, check-in with yourself– a good set of questions to walk through every once in a while to make sure you’re heading in the right direction and on the right path. For each of us, the answers to these questions will be different; but, for all of us, we need to listen to our heart’s answers.