This week, I attended the funeral of a young man whom I had the pleasure of meeting and teaching six years ago. He was a mere 16 years old when I met him and he acted like he was 30. He captured my attention. I was amazed by his confidence, maturity, intelligence and humor. He would make me laugh daily with his quick, clever, wit and adult-like perspectives. When I heard the news that he had chosen to take his own life I was shocked and saddened. I immediately thought to myself with the typical question we all ask after such a tragic event, “Why didn’t he reach out to anyone?” I was physically sick thinking of the pain he must have been in to make the decision that he did, and I thought of all the wonderful qualities he possessed and how others would not get to know him.
During his funeral service, the Reverend acknowledged how packed the church was and how the young man we were memorializing would have been quite surprised at the attendance. Tears welled up in my eyes as she spoke, and she continued to say that we were all there because he had touched our lives in some way and we were all connected by him and his passing, if he only knew.
Most young people don’t realize the positive impact they are making on those around them. Their negative self-talk supersedes any positive reinforcement they may receive from family and friends. Self-worth isn’t some gene we are born with. It is a seed in all of us waiting to be cultivated by our experiences and the choices we make to deal with these experiences. One of the values practiced in R.E.A.L. and the Reality Check program is choosing a life worthy of love and happiness free from fear and insecurity. We want young people to shine their light and know that they have the tools to get out of tough spots when life happens.
One of my favorite passages, “Our Deepest Fear”, is from the book Return to Love by Marianne Williamson. This passage is used throughout our program to reinforce self-worth and the contribution that we can make when we use our gifts. As I think of the young man who is no longer with us, I believe the best way I can honor him is to remember him while I work with young people, especially those who have almost given up. I want them to be inspired and know that they are “powerful beyond measure”. Bless those who feel that they have no hope.
Our Deepest Fear
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves,
Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, handsome, talented and fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us.
It is not just in some; it is in everyone.
And, as we let our own light shine, we consciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our fear, our presence automatically liberates others.