When I think about where I have been in life and where I still have to go, I get nervous. Have I done enough? It is not exactly clear to me when I realized that my life here on Earth had an actual purpose, but it became clear to me that it does. The path that I have been following for many years, even if I didn’t recognize it, is to make the world a softer, kinder, and gentler place. A person of substance is what I try to be. I repeat… try.
It is apparent to others how much I “love” people. I really do. It is one of my many Blessings that I have been given during my life and one beyond compare. How is it possible that one whom had minimal affection/love as a child grows up to be caring and compassionate? Perhaps, it was acquired over time, but what I know clearly is that people react to kindness and caring. Is it possible that this fact is so often overlooked?
Then one day, I got it! Most important to others is that we be a man or woman of substance. What exactly is that? Paraphrasing the definition:
“A person of substance is someone who strives to live a life that means something and who chooses to participate rather than be a spectator in life in order to be part of the solution as opposed to the problem.”
But what would make us actively participate and try to seek new roads? Initially, we need to find a cause outside of our own being. For some, that’s uncomfortable. While it is natural and accepted that we humans are self-absorbed and often self-centered… a cause that benefits just one person and would hardly make a dent on the significance scale. That’s according to some people; I disagree. No cause is too small. Doing something for the greater good means to pursue causes that:
- Make the world a better place
- Increase the quality of life for others
- Right a wrong
- Prevent the end of something good
- Initiate something good
Active participation requires courage and people of substance must have it! While the frail soul is safe from failure, they will never taste victory either. So, people of substance take risks. They try and they fail, but they never grow weary of trying. U.S President Teddy Roosevelt said:
“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasm, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
People of substance take responsibility for their actions successful or not. They wholeheartedly put themselves at the center of the action and fully accept whatever the consequences that the action may bring.
People of substance know that there is no middle/neutral position on anything. They identify with the belief that, “If you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem.” Similar to wants outnumbering means, problems outnumber solutions and real problem solvers in life are few and far between.
Good problem solving between competing interests typically requires a person of integrity with complete objectivity and solid values. The solution seeking person of substance will have had significant experience in both the good and the bad.
They will have “met with triumph and disaster and have treated those just the same” as the IF poem, by Rudyard Kipling, so accurately says. No doubt they will have lived an experience rich, full, and varied life. Choosing to experience life outside of our comfort zone in order to gain life experiences that can be used in solving problems would appear to be another action that would lead to becoming a person of substance. Sometimes, it is hard.
It appears to me that becoming anything involves a series of decisions followed by necessary actions. Becoming a person of substance is no different. It starts for all of us the same:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference. (Robert Frost)
We each make hundreds of decisions each day. We choose between frivolous and important, between what’s best for us and what’s right, between short and long term betterment, between politeness and wholeheartedness, between apathy and commitment, between self-centered and the greater good, between avoiding and accepting responsibility, between risk avoidance and risk management, between a life of leisure and a life of challenge, between timidity and courage, and between deceit and integrity.
I believe the person of substance chooses the less travelled… second option at each and every divergence. It is indeed the harder road, but one well worth it.
Over the past years, I have visited so many high schools.
I am candid with them about my own (his)story and they respond in kind. As I am “still” a high school English teacher in my heart… I encourage them to do some sort of follow-up writing and mail it to me.
They do this both by email and sometimes, snail mail (as you’ll be able to assume why)… they don’t want any proof at home.
I have answered each and every girl and boy over the years. I know I preach about involvement with Child Abuse endlessly and everyone getting involved. I do not regret it. Read why…
This young girl kept from sight
crying into the middle of the night
she fears that others will sense the shame
but was this girl really to blame?
this little girl who was full of belief
could not from him seem to find relief
she feels so dirty with her clothes which are torn
when she is being flung on the bedroom floor
this broken child lost her innocence at a very young age
through a trusted man’s deliberate drunken rage
her little broken heart was full of pain
through the rest of her life it would stain
people would see the bruises that lay upon her face
she wanted and longed for her special place
while he was looking around
this little girl couldn’t make a sound
she couldn’t have her own bed
he would be there touching her instead
taking her clothes off he would touch
this haunted her little heart so much
she just wanted him to understand
but instead she got the back of his hand
night after night she endured this pain
never to be happy ever again
this little angel from above
could not find the slightest inch of love
this mountain of unnoticed fear
went on year after year
while she was crying silent tears
he was tucking into some beers
why would no one come to her aid
day after day her happiness would fade
this went on for so, so long
and no one thought that this was wrong
this little girl that no one could save
she longed for her peaceful grave