― Paul the Apostle
Over the past few months we have weathered the storms of various legal battles, wars, civil unrest, extreme acts of violence, hate and racism, in addition to our daily stressors and challenges. It has been a lot to process. And in the midst of it all, we are somehow expected to conduct ourselves as if it’s business as usual. The reality is that we’re human, and this level of trauma, whether we’re experiencing it on a primary or secondary basis, is a lot to bear.
I just want to leave a few words with you that get me through challenging times: “Be anxious for nothing, but in all things, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6-7) This sage advice from Paul the Apostle reminds me that many of the things that make me anxious are outside of my control and that remaining in a place of anxiety and worry doesn’t help me resolve them. The best thing that I can do is to make my requests known to God and leave them there. There is no quick fix for the tumultuous terrain that we are navigating these days, but I want to remind you that you are not walking through this season alone.
Many of the things taking place these days are difficult to stomach and to witness. We often can’t fix them, which makes them all the more disturbing. However, not being able to fix them is OK; that’s not your job. Give yourself the liberty of leaving these worries and anxieties at the feet of someone who can.
― Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune
Growing up, my hero, apart from my mother and grandmother, was Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune. She was a trailblazer in the field of educational advocacy for Black children in her era. She understood the power of education and committed her life to creating academic opportunity and civic empowerment for Black youth. She used her vision to change countless lives. I think what impressed me the most about her was that she was undeterred by the views or prejudices of others.
She was an educator, civil rights pioneer, political strategist, college president, hospital administrator, social activist, presidential cabinet member, philanthropist, and missionary, among other things. Despite growing up in abject poverty, having her education withheld from her because of the color of her skin, being rejected by potential employers because of her ethnicity and countless other hurdles, she refused to be limited by others or placed in a box. And she refused to accept the limitations others tried to place on her community and what they could achieve.
Ultimately, Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune had faith--an unrelenting, unchanging, supernatural faith, even when things were bleak. Today, we need to look to women of faith like Dr. McLeod Bethune for guidance and inspiration. She believed that no matter how desolate the night, joy would come in the morning. And it did for her and the scores of lives she changed. And it will for us.
- Kimberley Baker Guillemet
Over the past few months, I’ve had the occasion to attend several funerals and memorial services for family members and friends, most of whom were elders, but some of whom were peers. This has given me reason to ponder the fleeting, transitory and, ultimately, brief nature of our lives on this planet. I believe that when we become aware that someone's natural life has drawn to a close, we should take a moment to ponder what we can learn from the way that person lived and how we can strive to make our own lives more impactful and meaningful.
One thing that always comes to mind when I am thinking about this topic is the importance of remembering that we need to make every day count. For young people, it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that there are countless years ahead and in response to that belief, choose to spend time in idleness. But in truth, we just do not know how long we have to make a difference. And frankly, even if we were guaranteed a long life (by human standards), it does not mean that we should choose to waste a second of it.
For those of us who come from underrepresented groups or from legacies where people like us historically didn’t have the privilege of access to freely pursue their dreams and goals, we should have a heightened aversion to squandering time. We know full well that there was a time in the not-too-distant past where the opportunities before us today were not available to people from our background. We also know that people suffered and died so that we could achieve what we now have the opportunity to strive for. With that understanding, why would we willfully waste time?
Every day is a gift and every day is an opportunity for not only internal growth, but for renewing our commitment to make the world better. I can only imagine the type of change we would see if a generation wholly and collectively committed to leaving this world better than they found it in every facet of their lives.
You are never too young to leave a legacy of hope and inspiration, nor are you ever too young to change the world. Never let your age be used to set false parameters on your reach and on your impact. Tomorrow is not promised to any of us. Let’s get to it.