Danielle Navonne: a Writer, experiencing and sharing the journey of life one Word at a time.

Posts tagged ‘mentor’

Get A Life!

It’s been longer than usual since my last post. During that time, the sudden and untimely deaths of a few people in my circle have encouraged a lot of conversations and thoughts about death – and more importantly, about life

…About making sure that we are not just living, but that when it’s all said and done, that we have lived a LIFE that leaves the world – our world – a little better than we found it. We go to work, pay our bills, run our errands – all things we need to do to live comfortably. But aside from those necessities, those things we “need” to do, what are we doing to make a life for ourselves?

One of the reasons I’m so transparent with many aspects of my life is because I wholeheartedly believe that I’m not living just for me, but that the life I live is also for others. While I do believe that I am meant to enjoy life, I also believe that it’s a lot bigger than me and my enjoyment. I believe that my life is fueled by my ability and willingness to help someone else.

I’ve always had a strong feeling (even as a child) that God placed me here for others. To help others, to encourage others, and to connect with others. I didn’t know exactly what it would look like, but the helping/service part was clear to me:

  • In elementary and high school, I sent encouraging greeting cards. Hoping that my thoughts and words would inspire the recipient.
  • After undergrad, I went to seminary, thinking that maybe I was supposed to be trained to help from the pulpit.
  • Now, I’m writing this blog, hoping that my written words will help someone else on their life journey.
  • And, I’m sure in a year or two, I will have added another mode of helpfulness to my list.

When Hurricane Katrina happened, I longed to go to New Orleans to help in the relief efforts. Since I spent my undergraduate years there, part of this longing was because of the friends and loved ones I was concerned about there. But the other part of that longing came from that place of helpfulness. That place in me that wanted to add meaning to my life by helping the people of New Orleans.

When the earthquake happened in Haiti, I got the same feeling, only this time, I had a few more resources to make it happen. Although I didn’t have a personal connection to the area like New Orleans, the desire to use my life to positively affect someone else’s remained. So without one connection to Haiti, I found a volunteer group, reached out to my Facebook friends for relief items to take over, and got on an airplane. (At some point, I plan to blog about my experience there.) To this day, I have maintained several of those connections, and feel connected to that part of the world in ways that I hadn’t before.

I wrote a meditation that was published in Devo’zine some years back, and it told the story of my encounter with a young woman while riding public transportation in Chicago. She was homeless and looked a little (OK, a lot) disheveled. She was basically the lady no one wanted to sit near. She ended up in the seat next to me and of course, wanted to spark conversation with me. I reluctantly engaged and it ended up being a great conversation about life, struggles, etc. As she was preparing to get off of the bus, I asked her name. This woman was in tears as she responded. She said that people always look past her and no one has ever cared enough to ask her name. That moment, that one question made a difference in her life, and thus, added meaning to mine. It wasn’t a volunteer trip to another country, but an intentional effort to connect with another person.

The purpose of this is not to tell you all the “good” stuff I’ve done (because believe you me, I can blog all day about the not-so-good things too!). The purpose is to share with you how these moments of connecting, connected my life to a purpose larger than myself.

We can easily get consumed with our own lives. I must often remind myself that life is so much bigger than just me. Bigger than the Grande, non-fat, no whip Mocha that I want; bigger than that last 7 lbs that I’m trying to lose. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not forgoing my mocha or those 7lbs, Lol. I’m just trying to stay conscious that sometimes, getting a life means not focusing so much on my own.

I encourage you to take a moment today, tomorrow, this week to look past yourself and add meaning to your life by connecting with others. It may be through an organized volunteer group or just some one-on-one time with a young person who needs some guidance.

When you connect your life to something outside of yourself, the impact of your life grows. And so does your feeling of connectedness and purpose in the world.

“If you wait until you can do everything for everybody, instead of doing something for somebody, you’ll end up doing nothing for nobody” (-Anonymous).

*As I was working on this post, the song below stayed in my head…

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Not-So-Great Expectations

“I was a success the minute I left Chicago’s South Side without a crack habit, a bullet in my head or a baby on my hip.”

I was immediately bothered when I heard this statement on a TV show that is now in syndication on TV One, but used to air on Showtime some years back. The statement was made by Teri, one of the characters on the Soul Food series. In this scene, Teri, an African American woman, was defending her decision to leave her position at a law firm, stating that her success isn’t defined by her job, it’s defined by the fact that she got out of the ‘hood without being murdered, pregnant or drugged-up. For some reason, I had a huge problem with that.

Let me be clear, I agree that our success is not defined by our position at work, but as an African American who grew up on Chicago’s South Side, I took the suggestion of this quote a bit personal. I get it, growing up in the ‘hood is hard. But does that mean that those of us who did should expect less of ourselves because of it?

I don’t want to be naïve, I know that the educational and exposure opportunities for children like me are different, and I know those are huge factors in success levels. But I believe that if we have low expectations for ourselves, we’ll never work to reach higher. We’re going to just stop right at the low bar we’ve set.

How do we personally and realistically acknowledge the inequities in communities like Chicago’s South Side, without lessening expectations because of it?

I grew up singing a song in church called,Think Big.” (No, that’s not me singing on the clip. 😉 )The repeating line says: “I might as well think big if I’m gonna think at all.” I guess that’s all I’m saying.

I read a study about a coach’s expectancy with athletes. Athletes whose coaches have low expectations of them, just focus on technical stuff – just enough to get by in the game. But those whose coaches have high expectations of them, focus on their communication and overall development – the stuff that leaders are made of.

I came across another article that discussed a recent increase in students with disabilities attending college. Apparently the growth is due in part to changes in federal laws that have increased the expectations of these students in elementary and secondary school.

Here are a few quotes about expectations that resonate with me:

“We tend to live up to our expectations.” (Earl Nightingale)

“Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you are correct.” (Henry Ford)

“Your self-expectations are usually self-fulfilling prophecies.” (Unknown)

If you shoot for the moon, even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” (Unknown)

I love the Soul Food series. I actually used to schedule my classes around it in undergrad (true story, lol).  So, this is not my attempt to bash Soul Food. It’s my attempt to have a real conversation about expectation levels, and a Soul Food quote just happened to be what sparked my thinking about this.

“I was a success the minute I left Chicago’s south side without a crack habit, a bullet in my head or a baby on my hip.”

So, am I overreacting? (I do that sometimes, lol.) Or does this comment insinuate low expectations for urban youth?

Do you think there is a level of truth in what’s she’s saying?

And moving beyond the context of this quote, how do we set expectations (goals) for ourselves while still considering the realities of our resources?

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