As the usher hands you the playbill and points you to your seat, you notice the theater isn’t as full as you expected. But you don’t give it much thought since you’re a little early. Empty or not, you’re just thrilled to be there. Thrilled that you’ve landed one of the hottest tickets on Broadway. And even more thrilled that you were able to bring your daughter to her first Broadway show. She’s been talking about this for weeks! Wearing her favorite dress, she is now frantically asking questions about every playbill page.
As soon as she gets to the character bios, the lights flicker and the announcement comes: “Please silence all cell phones, and do not use any recording devices during the show.” The theater goes black. The curtain rises, and the actor walks into the center stage spotlight. He surveys the audience with an obvious look of disappointment and disgust, then exits stage right.
The announcer returns: “Due to the popularity of this production, we are used to a much larger audience. We regret to inform you that there are not enough people to continue with tonight’s performance.” And just like that, your night at the theater is over and your daughter is crushed.
“But what about the people who are here? How come they don’t wanna do the play for us?” Your ride back home will be spent trying to answer these questions for your daughter.
Seems absurd (and kind of dramatic, lol) right? No self-respecting artist or performer who has been entrusted with a stage would forego a performance – insult their audience – just because there weren’t “enough” of them, right? Wrong. Many of us do it every day. Like it or not, we are all on a stage. And although we may not consider ourselves “performers,” we all have a calling. Something that compels us, impassions us and makes us feel most connected to ourselves. When we operate from that place on the stage we’ve been given, we illuminate the world. Our world.
We all have a calling. A thing that makes us come alive and positively affect a world. For me, it’s writing. For you, it may be volunteering, growing businesses, teaching, knitting, making people feel heard, mentoring, or styling hair. The list is endless.
Some of you know what that thing is, but for some reason or another you’re just not doing it. And the list of reasons for that is also endless. Maybe you’re waiting for someone to pay you for it, or until your pastor asks you to do it at church. But why can’t you do it where you are? On the platform you’ve been given?
And there is an audience – our circle of influence – that is waiting for us to use that calling: a daughter, a brother, a neighbor, a coworker. But we often forego using it because we don’t like the stage we’re on, or the audience we’ve been given. Maybe we’re waiting for a “better” or bigger stage. A wealthier or wider audience. But what message does that send to the audience we have now? Our family. Our coworkers.
Oprah discussed this very thing on her final show. And whether you’re an Oprah fan or not, the truth of her statement remains:
“Each one of you has your own platform. Do not let the trappings here fool you. Mine is a stage in a studio. Yours is wherever you are, with your own reach. However small or however large that reach is…Wherever you are, that is your platform, your stage, your circle of influence. That is where your power lies.”
(To watch the 5-minute clip from Oprah’s show, click here.)
For a while, I thought I would wait to write until I actually had a “writing” job. But composing this “non-paying” blog has quickly become one of the favorite parts of my week . I may not be reaching millions, but if anything said here makes a difference in anyONE’S life, I have made use of my stage. And the one who may benefit from reading it now, is just as important as the millions who may read it later.
I implore you to use your calling, your gift, your talent, your passion. Whatever it is that you call it, use it. In whatever small or big way you can. On your stage. In your life. To affect your world. It will not only have a positive effect on your audience, but it will also bring you a deeper sense of purpose and connectedness.
I recently read “On the Right Track,” by former world champion track and field athlete, Marion Jones (a great read). In it, she candidly discusses her tumultuous road to self-discovery. In one section, she references a story about using what we have and who we are to make a difference in the setting we’re in. I will end with a version of that story.
One day a woman was walking along the beach upon which hundreds of starfish had been washed up and now lay stranded on the sand. As she continued walking, she noticed a young girl in the distance, picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean. She approached the girl, and asked, “What are you doing?”
The girl replied, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out. They need to be in the water, if I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.”
“My daughter,” the woman said, “don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t possibly make a difference!”