It seems like we all want to feel significant. Sometimes to a fault. We search and search and search, only to come away frustrated. I want to encourage you to continue searching… by doing. While working at IBM, I was selected to attend what turned out to be the best seminar I have ever participated in. It was a small seminar for promising young IBM employees of Asian descent and was hosted by LEAP, Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics. Through the years I’ve maintained a relationship with LEAP and they recently asked me to help review some scholarship applications for the Ronald McDonald’s House. I was a bit hesitant at first but I’m glad I accepted because what I found out rejuvenated and energized me.
I received 30 scholarship applications via FedEx over the weekend. The packet included an application, financial statement, personal essay and recommendations. I wasn’t sure what I would find as I started through them, but after I finished reading them I was emotionally exhausted from laughing and crying. These kids are just awesome. If you ever lose faith in the world we live in, let me reassure you, there are high school kids out there who have a dream. They are facing adversity by meeting the challenges head on. They are talented, passionate, caring. There is hope for our country.
The students all live in the greater Los Angeles area and most are facing or have faced some sort of challenge. There was the young woman who was separated from her mom at birth because her mom was in prison and her father was unknown. She was raised by her Aunt in a fairly nice area, but was then reunited with her mom at 16 when she got out of prison. She went from living in a relatively safe area to a gang infested hell. Yet she maintained a steady course, and she will be going to college.
There was a young man, diagnosed with a rare disorder that is often life threatening. He battled this disease and won. Although he missed a ton of school, his grades and SAT scores were among the best of the bunch. His pediatrician wrote an awesome recommendation that highlighted his courage and determination.
There were others who lost friends when they decided to pursue excellence. Some of them come from families that have an annual income of $20,000. Poverty. Many of these young men and women work to help their families financially. Yet, we live in America. We live in country that provides opportunity for those that are willing to try.
I wish you could reach each letter. Most were extremely well written. Passionate. The students told me of volunteering in schools as tutors or aides. Many attend church and volunteer there too. They were in sports and clubs. They shared their dreams and aspirations.
What did I get out of it? A reminder that significance comes from within, not without. That if you wait for someone else to help you feel significant, you will be waiting for a long time.
If you are searching for significance… go do something. I volunteer in our children’s program at church and every week come away feeling significant. By doing, you will find your significane. By waiting, you will also find something… emptiness.
There are a lot of good books and fables about how our search for significance often leads us to our back yard. If you haven’t read the Alchemist by Paul Coelho, do yourself a favor and go get it. I won’t give the story away, but you won’t be disappointed.
Another favorite story of mine is Acre’s of Diamonds written by Russel Conwell in 1913. It is a timeless classic and you can get a free copy of it online here.
All the best!
All the time!