2016 has been a difficult and contentious year for the world. Between the war in Syria, the divisive U.S. presidential election, protests over the shootings of unarmed black men, and many other issues, one can begin to lose hope.
As an intercultural practitioner, my job is to reduce the barriers of bias so that people leverage differences for their team or organization’s advantage. This year, however, I began to wonder if my work could stand up against these monolithic global challenges. At times I asked myself, “Am I making a difference?” With so much hate in the world it can be hard to tell.
Then I remembered a quote from Howard Thurman:
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
When we face dark times, we might feel powerless to do anything that would make even the smallest impact. We do not, however, always have to fight back directly against the darkness. We can also be a light.
We can ask ourselves the following questions:
- What are my biggest strengths?
- Where am I currently using those strengths in my life?
- How could using those strengths inspire others?
- What makes me feel alive?
- When I feel alive, how does that impact others in a positive way?
- What problems in my community could my strengths help to solve?
Notice how different this feels than the despair we can feel when a local or global problem seems unsolvable.
Here is an example: Imagine a man whose biggest strength is writing. He is also passionate about child poverty, but feels that issue is too high a mountain to climb for one person. He decides to write a poem about a young boy who broke free of poverty. The local paper published the poem, and a teacher with many students living in poverty reads it one morning before work. The teacher is inspired by the poem and shares it with her students. She gives them an assignment to write about their own experiences and submit their poems to writing contests. One of the students wins a contest and goes on to have a career in writing. Years later he mentors kids in his community.
Sound far-fetched? It isn’t. When we use our strengths, the payoff can be big because we are not fighting the tide. We are aligning our natural gifts and talents with problems that need to be solved.
I invite you to consider how your strengths can be a light in these difficult times. Do not hold back or hesitate. The world needs you now more than ever.