inspire [in-spahyur] : to fill with an animating, quickening, or exalting influence.
Sometimes people tell me, “You inspire me.” This statement arouses different feelings in me depending upon the day. Sometimes I feel honored and proud that something I’ve done and shared causes another to find inspiration. In my sharing heart, I know that even if an act only brings a momentary smile to another, it makes the day better. Perhaps that little burst of happiness is shared in a new way by the original recipient and the positive energy spreads from person to person.
Sometimes, I feel that being an inspiration is a burden or a responsibility. I don’t want to be an inspiration. I just want to take a run on a trail in the woods. I just want to stand on my head. I just want to write what I’m thinking about. Maybe I should keep my actions and ideas to myself.
Nobody really cares if I take a run. It doesn’t matter if I stand on my head. Nobody wants to read what I share anyway.
The inspiring act is like a drop of water splashing into a lake. The initial splash is but a blink, but the concentric ripples expand into the world influencing countless other drops of water. Inspiration is a cycle. In order to inspire others, we must allow ourselves to be inspired, whether it is by another person’s words or actions, a butterfly that lands nearby or a beautiful sunset over the ocean.
So, the ripple can happen, the person can act, the butterfly can land and the sun can set, but they are not “inspiration” in and of themselves, we ALLOW ourselves to find inspiration.
This is the explanation when I feel honored or proud, but it needs to be tempered with the understanding that, it really wasn’t what I did, it was how the other person perceived it. It doesn’t necessarily mean they want to go run on a trail or stand on their head, it means they feel the desire to convert the inspiration into experiencing and sharing their own joy.
This is also the answer to myself when I feel the statement, “You inspire me.” as a burden or responsibility. It’s simply not true. It’s not my responsibility to inspire others. It’s their choice to EMBRACE inspiration in their lives.
Because “your feelings of inspiration are not my responsibility,” the thoughts that “nobody cares” and “it doesn’t matter” are also false.
I know from my days of being a kindergarten teacher and elementary principal that I spent countless hours serving students, encouraging then, teaching them, helping them. I can’t enumerate the number of shoes I tied over the course of thirty years, but it was important enough to one kindergartner to write me a letter thanking me for it when he was in second grade. Why was it inspiring that day? I’ll never know, just as I’ll never know many other acts that mattered to others. So, anytime I feel that something “doesn’t matter,” I remind myself that everything matters, but it is not always my privilege to know how or why.
Yesterday I read this quote: “Rosa sat so that Martin could walk; Martin walked so that Obama could run; Obama ran so that our children could fly.”
The inspiration for this quote is attributed to an email from a 19-year-old single mother from Pennsylvania to her Democratic Party chairperson. When this young lady shared her inspiration, it created a ripple for sure.
On the day Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus, she had no idea that she was a link in a chain of events that resulted in our nation electing our first Black president. The ripples continue through this day and beyond in children of color who can truly aspire to be anything they desire, as they see themselves in others realizing incredible possibilities.
Be the drop of water that inspires the ripples, knowing that it’s not your responsibility to inspire and you may never know how you inspire, but trust that you do.
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