Someone said something to me last week that I can’t get out of my head.
I keep turning it over and over, trying to give the guy the benefit of the doubt, or analyzing where I might be misunderstanding, or really trying to blow it off.
But I can’t.
Because what he said flies in the face of much that I stand for in my life, and much that I stand up for in others’ lives. And now, even four days later, I can't shake this need to shout from the rooftops.
And I don’t think he has any idea. And maybe by sharing it, someone reading this might stop themselves from making a similar mistake – not with me, because honestly I don’t care, but with those who might not be as confident as me or those for whom the darkness screams so loudly they can’t hear the truth.
We were talking about who knows what, small talk, entertaining but nothing deep or useful, when I mentioned I’ll be moving to Boston. He asked what I would be doing in Boston and I said I’ll be working on a research project there. He asked where? I said Harvard.
And then he said. Wow, you’re a lot more awesome than I thought. You’re the real deal.
And I was speechless.
And I laughed or moved on or changed the subject or whatever it was I did, but it’s stuck with me.
What I’d like to say?
Harvard does not make me awesome. The place where someone works does not make them awesome. And I am the real deal. And it has nothing to do with Harvard. I’m the real deal because I seek to love and value people no matter where they work, where they are from, what language they speak, what country they come from, what faith they live or don’t live. I’m surrounded by incredible, awesome people every day, and will be in the future, that give up comforts and family to serve the least of these. I have dear friends who are the real deal, slogging through the long days and short years of raising kids and keeping a family together and committing to love their spouses even when it’s not comfortable or easy. Another friend who has so many health issues it’s incredible she even keeps on keeping on, when getting out of bed requires everything she has. She’s the real deal. It’s the momma down on the wards who prayed for her baby every day, and then trusted enough to hand her most precious gift over to different looking strangers who were speaking in tongues she didn’t understand to fix what no doctor had been able to fix, but trusted us anyway. I’d venture a guess that anyone in my future place of employment would say it isn’t Harvard that makes them awesome, or the real deal. It’s the hours and years of hard work, late nights, studying until you can’t see anymore, practicing your skills, pushing through, hoping to be heard, putting yourself out there and hoping what you think might happen actually happens.
This guy, I can just blow him off, and I have. But this is bigger than just this one encounter. It’s idiot statements like that, statements said in passing or nonchalantly, that stick with people. It’s statements like that that tell children that they have to work at a certain place or get a certain place in life in order to be awesome. Statements like that make others feel less than, not good enough.
I didn’t change. I’m not a different, better person two seconds after sharing I will be working there than I was before saying it. And this was not our first meeting, I’d say we had shared at least 30 minutes of small talk at two different meetings before this. But suddenly, in that moment, in his eyes, my value went up significantly. And honestly that makes me so angry, almost sick to my stomach.
And it makes me wonder – is this what the world is like? I’ve lived in a bubble the last five years, is this what I will face when I return to and start working and living in America in a few months?
I guess I will cross that bridge when I come to it. But for now, imagine me screaming from the rooftops:
YOU ARE AWESOME. YOU ARE THE REAL DEAL. If you are breathing oxygen, and doing something, whatever your calling is…. YOU ARE AWESOME. My calling is no greater than your calling, just like her work and calling and life is no greater or more valuable than his. We are all in this together, and it takes all kinds, and we need you right where you are supposed to be.
Oh, may the truth of those words sink deeply into our souls, mine included.