This morning I had the opportunity once again so speak at a conference for military families who are dealing with the ups and downs of oversees deployment. Attendees to this conference were those deploying or just returned and the families who support them. It is always a privileged to address these folks and I feel honored to serve them in even a small way. Early this morning as I rehearsed in my mind the things that I would say to this soon gathered crowed a question came to me that I rarely take the time to answer.
The question was this: “Why do I work so hard to speak and write and communicate to people that I do not know and that may not even want to hear what I have to say?”
Communication in all of it’s forms has been a personal focus of mine for many years. Whether speaking, or writing, or putting together a video with thoughts that seem important at the time, I have invested countless hours working to understand the very best way to connect with an audience (audience here can be one person or many). And then, before even attempting to communicate anything meaningful, I struggle, practice, write, re-write and do it all again until I feel like I have something worth saying. And even with all of this I still feel sick nearly every time I get ready to let those words become public. So why do it? Why work so hard to communicate to those that you do not know and that may not even want to hear what you have to say?
Since I like lists, here is a list:
- The Psalmist said in Psalm 89:1 that with his mouth he would make known the faithfulness of God to all generations. In a very general sense, my job is to communicate to others just how good God is and how much hope is found in Him. He is faithful even when no one else is and can be found at those moments of loneliness and despair. If the only thing I could do was communicate greatness of God, that would be enough.
- We will all expend our lives doing something. Every day that we live is a day closer to our last. I want to live a life that adds value to the world around me and gives hope to those who need hope. What better way to do that than by using my voice, and my pen (really keyboard, pen just sounded more poetic) to encourage, challenge and give hope to those around me.
- That person in the back of the room. Several years ago I heard a speaker speaking on speaking (it was a great speech) talk about the young man sitting on the back row. He said that every time he prepares to speak he pictures the person who will slip in to his talk unnoticed having already decided that if he does not get help here, he will give up hope of ever finding it. I believe that in every room that person exists. The person for whom I was sent. The one who really needs to hear, or read, what I have to say. Others get to listen in but it was intended for him. I speak for the person, or persons or couple that will give up hope if they don’t find it here.
- So many people have shown me the way forward in life. I have had friends and mentors use their voice to motivate me forward when I needed a push, call me back when I have gotten off track and encourage me when I am headed the right direction. Communicating to others is not the act of telling them what they should do; it is telling them what you have done and applying the lessons you have learned to their lives. It is cooperating in a way that says, “We will do this life thing together. You are not alone.”
- It is not about me. Learning and growing personally is a waste if not used for the benefit of others. Life is about being healthy enough to turn around and help others. There is no better way to help others than by using your voice to encourage, strengthen and guide.
- Perhaps most importantly, I feel called to it. I do many other things in my life but none make me feel more within my calling than communicating to others. It is hard work but a work in which I am happy to engage.
As I asked myself that question this morning I wrote the above list down on a hotel notepad. It is good to be reminded of the “why” from time to time because if we are not careful we can easily lose focus. While I know that we are not all the same and that the calling on all of our lives is different, I would argue that each of us has a responsibility to leverage our life and ability by communicating for the benefit of others. When I looked at my list and read it aloud I was able to walk out the door of my room prepared to speak saying to myself , “Why wouldn’t I do this? I have been given a great gift to be able to speak words of hope and truth to those who need it!”
I get to speak and write and so should you!