This blog post was inevitable. I was always going to write it. I just needed a moment of inspiration. Because when your favorite poem is quoted by your favorite actor/comedian, in your favorite scene from your favorite movie, the stars are about as aligned as they could possibly be.
So, late the other night I was flipping around the TV, looking for something to watch and just couldn’t sleep. And I stumbled across the movie Dead Poets Society on one of the thousand channels that are now part of my basic cable package. (For those of you who don’t know the movie, it is about an inspirational English teacher, played by Robin Williams, and the influence he has over a group of students at a strict, 1950s east coast boarding school. If you have not seen it, I highly commend it to your viewing. Just a wonderful story, full of outstanding performances. Now back to our blog post…)
Right as I turn to the channel, my favorite scene comes on… Williams’ character, Mr. Keating, is imploring his students to care about poetry the way he does, and he quotes the great poem by Walt Whitman, “O Me! O Life!” For those interested, you can see the full text of the poem here. But for all of you, the punch line is this:
The question, O Me! so sad, recurring — What good amid these, O Me! O life?
Answer: That you are here — that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.
– Walt Whitman, O Me! O Life!
I always loved this poem, since the first time I read it in high school. But when the poem was spoken by Williams’ Keating in a movie about young people figuring out who they really are… well, that’s level 10 inspiration for me. And thus today’s post.
The powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse. Level 10, indeed. My colleagues and I teach and coach communication skills for a living. But at a more basic level, we also help people find their voice, just like Mr. Keating was doing for those boys. We help people figure out what they want to say, or need to say, and we help them grow their confidence to say it. That is what I love most about our work… helping someone find their voice, so that they can stand up and “contribute a verse.”
We live in a complicated world. Just read the headlines any day of the week. Now, I suppose every period of time is complicated, in its own way. But for some reason, this moment in human history feels a bit more complicated. And it is in moments like this, where I think it is important to reach out a hand, help others, and remind ourselves of a few basic things. Don’t ever forget your value. As the powerful play goes on around you, you are a contributor to that play. You have the ability and the opportunity to make a big impact on others… every single day. You have the opportunity to be heard.
Find your opportunity. Make your point. Write your verse.
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