By Rhonda Collins, I Start Wondering Columnist
Anytime we go through a major life change (such as I recently went through due to a geographical relocation and starting a new job), we have an opportunity to reflect on our lifestyle and reinvent ourselves. Recently, I was fortunate to hear two inspiring speakers who motivated me to think differently about my own life choices.
The speakers’ remarks were not only culturally relevant, but relate to this blog’s theme of making choices that move us in a positive direction toward our life goals. What follows are some of their comments and the ideas they kindled in me.
Humility, Humor and Humanity
I recently had the opportunity to listen to a presentation by Dr. Henry Musoma, a native of Zambia. Speaking to a group of new Texas A&M international students, he encouraged listeners to commit to three ideals: Humility, Humor and Humanity.
An assistant professor in Texas A&M’s Mays Business School, Musoma was in the national spotlight as a guest on the Ellen DeGeneres Show. He was recognized for allowing a student to bring her baby to class when she couldn’t find a baby-sitter.
Musoma contrasted this recent fame to his impoverished upbringing in Africa. He told of the struggles he endured to get where he is today and of the many changes he went through. “Change is painful, but pain is changeful,” he said. Evolution is not easy, but hopefully it moves us to a better place.
Musoma asserted that the key to successfully dealing with our changing world is found first in our humility. In a day when super heroes are worshiped and we want to believe we can do it all (and sometimes we are asked to do so), it’s important to not think too much of ourselves. Instead, we can succeed by remembering that none of us knows everything. “Let’s learn to be students of one another,” Musoma said.
And getting through each day is easier if we can frame each situation with a sense of humor, Musoma said. Learning to laugh at ourselves and the situations we are going though can make the tough times a little easier.
But most important to our common survival, according to Musoma, is our humanity. We must remember to be kind, pay attention and help one another. While an important part of everyday life, these actions take on new meaning during difficult times of transition.
His message struck a chord with me. I have had many reasons to be frustrated and stressed this past year and it was easy to get irritated at others whom I have seen as adding to my stress. Musoma’s words encouraged me to recognize that people who are causing me pain are likely just as stressed as I am. I now am making a concerted effort to be more patient and kind to others, even when they are irritating the crap out of me. Choosing this tact instead of being confrontational and disappointed actually decreases my own stress level.
Seeking New Horizons
Many years ago, I wrote in my journal that I thought reading and travel, more than anything else, promotes learning, discovery and ideas. That idea was confirmed multiple times by Kevin Powell, the guest speaker at the annual Martin Luther King Breakfast at Texas A&M University. Powell reminded the audience that lifelong learning is key to respecting others and promoting social justice through repeating his catchphrase, “Hash-tag read, study, travel!”
Powell, who was unknown to me prior to registering for the event, is a feisty, forward-thinking journalist and activist who has his fingers on the pulse of our culture. A founding staff member of Vibe magazine, the journalist has 11 books and many articles to his name.
Powell addressed leadership, lifelong learning and leaving a legacy. His remarks, while directed to the young adult students in the audience, were excellent inspiration and confirmation for the older and experienced crowd, as well.
He encouraged listeners to not settle for routine or become stuck with old habits. Instead, we should each try to expand our awareness and interests in an effort to create a better life for ourselves and a better world for humankind. Quoting novelist James Baldwin, Powell reminded us not to “make peace with mediocracy.” We shouldn’t allow ourselves to be dominated by habits that don’t move us toward being a better person.
The speaker cautioned about the perils of being consumed by our gadgets. “Don’t lose your humanity to technology,” Powell said, referring to many who seem to spend more time on social media than interacting in-person with real people. If we must be addicted to something, he said, it’s better to “be addicted to love, peace and compassion.”
Powell also encouraged each person to be a leader. “A leader has to be a bridge-builder,” Powell said. It’s important for all leaders to work with people unlike themselves. Good leaders, he said, recruit and train other leaders and they evolve with the times. Most importantly, as leaders we have to step up and speak out when we witness people not being treated humanely. “When you are silent, you are complacent,” he said.
These two powerful voices have reverberated in my head for the past few weeks. Their messages encourage me to shift the needle on my compass toward humanity. Would you like to join me in helping create a more peaceful and loving world? If so, I’d love to hear your ideas on how we can best do that.