By John Broadway
When day comes we step out of the shade,
aflame and unafraid
The new dawn blooms as we free it
For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it
If only we’re brave enough to be it.
— Amanda Gorman, 2021 Inaugural Poet
I hope Amanda Gorman’s loving call for unity inspired you to be the light we need amid our nation’s deep divisions.
The thing about being inspired, though, it requires action. So how does one bravely answer the call to “be the light?”
Here’s a secret, you already have all the tools you need
1. Your Voice
“To me, words matter. That’s what made this inauguration that much more sentimental and special. We’ve seen over the past few years how the power of words has been violated and misappropriated. What I wanted to do was reclaim poetry as that site in which we can re-purify and re-sanctify. Not just the capitol building which we saw violated, but the power of words, and invest that in the highest office of the land.” — Amanda Gorman
These words, from her interview on CNN, inspired me to write this article.
When I say voice, I mean words. But please know this, you don’t have to be a renowned poet or fancy writer to wield the power of words. You already wield great power with your words, and you should never take that lightly. Through simple utterances, you can fan flames or suffocate them, inflict harm or harmony, break down or build up. The choice is yours.
Whether through a random text, social media, Zoom, phone conversation, or in-person, be intentional with using your words to illuminate something positive. Use them to highlight admirable qualities, brighten someone’s day, and/or ignite their confidence.
You have no idea how much difference your uplifting words can make on someone. Harness your light by committing yourself to make someone’s day, every day, with something you already use every day: your voice.
2. Your Ears
“Listening is often the only thing needed to help someone.” — Anonymous
Another good quote goes something like: “God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason, we should listen twice as much as we speak.”…#Facts
We often can’t know what words we should tell people unless we listen to them first. And I don’t mean just hearing the words people say, but actually listening to what they’re saying: their tone, the pitch, rate of delivery, what’s been left unsaid. When we listen entirely to all aspects of what people say, we not only understand them, putting us in a better position to be there for them, but we also make them feel better.
More than just listening to people once they’ve already spoken, using your ears to be the light means allowing people the opportunity to talk to you. For example, so often, we may come across a salesperson, a homeless person, a political opponent, or maybe even a text from someone who seeks to engage us, and we completely ignore them. Being routinely ignored can easily lead someone to a dark place. Even if you have no plans of spending/giving money, changing your mind, or developing a relationship with someone, the simple act of lending your ear to them can be such an uplift on someone’s spirit.
As someone with experience as a salesperson, we don’t always need the sale, sometimes it’s uplifting just having our humanity acknowledged by someone taking time to listen to us.
3. Your Eyes
“The sign of a beautiful person is that they always see the beauty in others.” — Anonymous
Metaphorically speaking, our eyes can serve as light when we use them to find the good in others, especially those with whom we differ from or disagree.
If you’ve studied storytelling like I have, you’ll know that no character/person is 100% bad. Nor are people evil just for the sake of being evil. Everyone is the hero of their own story and often times these competing stories collide. But even amid this conflict, I’ve learned — although I still struggle — not to lose sight of the admirable qualities and good faith that exist in others.
As Barack Obama eloquently stated after the 2016 election: “we must go forward with a presumption of good faith in our fellow citizens. Because that presumption of good faith is essential to a vibrant and functioning democracy.”
Besides benefiting society, training yourself to see the light in others will personally help you. Here’s the SparkNotes version of an article I wrote titled 5 Ways Seeing the Good In Others Improved My Life.
- Enhanced ability to forgive (essential to spiritual well-being)
- Enhanced self-forgiveness (also essential)
- A heightened level of humility (being humble, not being humiliated)
- Enhanced ability to lead and work with others (more on this later)
- A heightened level of hope in humankind (we need this badly right now)
If we all commit our eyes to find the good in others, this world would be beaming with kindness and good faith.
4. Your Feet
“Let no man imagine that he has no influence. Whoever he may be, and wherever he may be placed, the man who thinks becomes a light and a power.” — Henry George
Taking the first step and leading others is the ultimate harnessing of our light — when it’s done in good faith. As leaders, we become a lantern that lights the path for others to follow, the slow-burning match that lights every candle in the room, or the sun that supports everything it touches with energy and warmth.
These metaphors represent only three of the bazillion different manifestations of leadership. However, it all comes down to whether you’re willing to step up and deliver guidance, support, energy, or some form of value to others. Sometimes that’s sticking up for the person getting made fun of for thinking differently, maybe it’s pushing everyone you know to get involved in the community, or perhaps it’s sticking to integrity and values when no one else wants to.
Whatever it is, we all have the potential to take the lead; we all need to harness our light so we can be an example for others.
My dad made a Youtube video titled “Who Are You.” He doesn’t say in the video, but he told me its’ premise was to help viewers understand that, at our core, every human is love. I wasn’t convinced. Then, strangely enough, a hiking buddy of mine echoed that sentiment. I still wasn’t sure.
But Gorman’s poem helped drive it home for me.
As I wrote this article, I began to see that she used light as a synonym for love. And now, more than ever, we need to harness our love.
For there is always love.
If only we are brave enough to see it.
If only we are brave enough to be it.
This article by Ally member John Broadway (Los Angeles ’21) was originally published on his blog via medium. If you enjoyed this piece, we encourage you to go on the original article and clap for it and/or follow him to receive more of his content.
This piece is part of Public Allies’ campaign to highlight voices of Black members, Alumni, staff, and partners throughout Black History Month.