The last twelve months have been incredibly difficult for everyone. Many people say that they are struggling to see a way out as the global pandemic continues to keep families apart. Our journey can feel much more challenging when we are surrounded by polarization and division rather than our loved ones.
My philosophy in life has always been to try and let my light shine brightly so that others can see a way out of the dark. But when a reader of my book provided some honest feedback, I questioned my outlook. They said they found my passion for being the light in the world to be overly religious, which made them feel uncomfortable.
The conversation forced me to re-evaluate how I present myself and the language I use in our online and offline worlds. In a moment of self-reflection, I remembered how I was inspired by Tony Melendez, a guitarist born without arms who played the instrument with his feet. As a child, Melendez used his feet to accommodate for having no arms.
Melendez learned to play with toys and could even write with his toes. Although he was offered prosthetic arms, he decided that he was more comfortable using his feet at just ten years old. Fast forward to a youth rally in 1987, and he performed the song “Never Be the Same” as Pope John Paul II sat 40 feet away.
As he finished playing his music, he was advised to remain still due to the heavy security around the Pope. Immediately after his performance, the Pope approached Melendez and kissed his cheek. The pontiff then whispered in his ear, “Tony, you are truly a courageous young man. You are giving hope to all of us. My wish to you is to continue giving this hope to all the people.”
In 2021, given all the things we’ve gone through, I plan to be more of myself rather than less. My faith will continue to guide me. Religion has always been an undertone and a big part of my entire journey. It’s in everything that I do and how I treat others. As we navigate this period of uncertainty and uncharted waters, this guidance is more important to me than ever before.
For these reasons alone, I will embrace my belief that we can all penetrate the darkness with our light and positivity. I have also promised myself that I will continue looking to seize opportunities to be the light for others when I embark on my journey.
However, I can only help others find their way out of the darkness if I’m my own authentic self. I learned from Tony Melendez that we all need to dig deep and dare to be ourselves. Only then can we provide hope to others by leading with our light and heart so that we can all feel empowered to live up to our fullest potential.