For the longest time I wasn’t very confident in my strengths and talents and sometimes even doubted that I had any. Over the last few years though I’ve done a lot of work discovering more about them and trying putting them to use.
Even so, there are a few that I’ve wanted to use more, a few that feel like they were bursting with potential but had only just begun to be developed. One of those is my ability to speak publicly.
Even writing that I think I have a public speaking gift feels awkward.
It’s still somewhat uncomfortable to talk about my areas of strength. It somehow seems prideful or egotistical. But I’m working on owning them because I realize that is the first step to being able to use them.
I use my speaking ability in my job quite a bit but I’ve wanted to put it to use more broadly outside of work to encourage more people. At times, I’ve been frustrated that I didn’t have more opportunities and that people were not asking me to do it.
Then one day this past Christmas break it hit me.
I needed to stop waiting to be asked and offer myself in service to others.
I guess what held me back was realizing that by offering, it meant I actually believed I had something to contribute; something I thought could help others.
I think I was also afraid of rejection. I was scared that people might think, “Who is this guy and why does he think he’s so smart.”
But the more I thought about it I realized it wasn’t prideful if my intention was to truly help people, and rejection wouldn’t be the end of the world. If some people didn’t want/need what I had to offer that was OK.
So I put aside my fears and doubts for a minute and emailed all my high school contacts in Oregon to see if any would be interested in having me share about self-esteem, a subject that I’m really passionate about.
Somewhat to my surprise, within a day or so I had several enthusiastic responses and in under a week two schools had scheduled me. Soon another 5 added.
As it turns out, that email was just the beginning of one of the most exciting and fulfilling journeys I’ve ever been on.
Since sending that email I’ve had the privilege of speaking in seven schools for a total of 14 times.
I’ve also been stretched and grown in some amazing ways and have gotten to experience the joy of using a God-given gift to encourage others.
Best of all I’ve had the privilege of being small part of some cool things God is doing in my community to bring healing to some difficult circumstances.
In a recent post I shared the unfortunate fact that our community has experienced a rash of suicides among young people the last couple of years.
I didn’t know that when I sent the initial email to schools. But it has ended up that my presentation has been timely in a way I never expected to help at least a little in the Newberg schools as they deal with this sad situation.
My very first presentation ended up being at Newberg High School and I was also able to speak at my son’s middle school. Both of those schools have been hit especially hard by these tragedies.
I’m not so naive that I think me being there somehow made everything alright, but I do know from their responses that it was helpful and encouraging to them and that is enough for me.
About the same time as I started doing these presentations my friend Amy Wolff, upon hearing about the suicides, felt moved to implement an idea she’d been kicking around for a few years.
She teamed up with a local graphic artist, printed a few signs with messages of hope like, “Don’t Give Up,” “You Matter,” “You’re Worthy of Love,” and asked people if she could put them in their yard.
Since then the “Don’t Give Up Signs” have spread to yards all over our community and well beyond, turning into a movement that is sharing love, hope and encouragement all over.
Ironically, Amy was one of the first people I talked to when I decided to start speaking in schools. She is a presentation coach and I wanted to get her advice on the best ways to approach it.
It turns out he is also concerned about our community’s mental health issues and is doing a series of articles to bring awareness to the problem and highlight the community’s response.
During their conversation Amy told him about my presentations so he decided to come when I spoke at the middle school.
At lunch that day I got to share with him how God has been moving in my life to share my story and encourage people in our community.
I have no idea where that conversation will lead but it was great to share with him and I’m excited that the news about what God is doing in our town is continuing to spread.
The intent of this post is not to pat myself on the back or boast about my personal success.
Instead I want to illustrate the importance of stepping out to help others and the good things that can come from it. These past few weeks have served as powerful evidence of that for me.
I’ve been blown away by the many ways God is calling people out to help our town and so honored to play a small part it in.
None of this would have happened if I’d let my fears and doubts get in the way. I’m sure God would have found someone else to use but I would have missed out on being a part of it.
I’m convinced there is tons of untapped potential out there to help people.
There are so many people just like me who are afraid to step out and offer their gifts in service for lots of different reasons. If that is you, if you’ve felt a desire bubbling up to use a gift, I hope you’ll offer it soon to help someone else.
People need you and what you have to offer. You never know what kind of impact a simple yet profound act of courage can have!