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We All Struggle Sometimes

John O'Leary
 
How a kind word from a new friend helped shift John’s perspective.

“Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

The first week of May this year was a bit exhausting for me.

The week included significant travel, five speaking presentations and three podcast recordings. There were numerous prep calls, team meetings, and complicated project deadlines that added stress. Beyond work, there were times when striving to be a phenomenal spouse, parent, son and friend was a mighty struggle. And finally, although I seldom admit this reality, the body of burn survivors breaks down easily which can lead to painful skin infections; that week I was dealing with several.

While speaking before the students from Immaculate Conception School, however, I tried to resolutely ignore any distractions, disregard personal discomfort and be fully present with these amazing students. And in doing so, a new friend reminded me both of the power of sharing our lives with others and the mighty impact we can make in their lives through encouragement. Let me explain.

I’d been invited to remind the students of Immaculate Conception that God is still God, their lives mattered and the best of their days remained ahead. The stories resonated, the students were engaged and the venue was abuzz with life. It was awesome.

About halfway through the program, I invited the students to turn to their neighbor and share a place in their lives where God had blessed them mightily. The students immediately turned, started sharing and the room filled with the voices of hundreds of kids excitedly sharing.

After a few minutes, and although it took a little coercing, I settled the room down and asked if anyone would share with the entire school.

Many hands were raised and I eventually called on a girl seated near the front.

Lily flashed a beautiful smile and wiped her joy-filled eyes as she prepared to take the microphone from me. I approached, thanked her, knelt before her and let her speak.

Lily shared it had been a difficult year for her. But she was grateful for this day, for this school, for her faith, and for her family. She was particularly grateful for the friends who stood by her even when things were hard for her. Lily paused and added that she got through the difficult days with their help.

It was a tender, honest, beautiful moment that moved everyone.

And it wasn’t over yet.

She got ready to hand the microphone back to me, but then spoke even more adamantly. After looking around at all of her schoolmates, she added, “And you all need to listen to this man! Do you have any idea how much courage it takes to stand before you and share a story like this? Do you have any idea how hard his life must be? Do you have any idea how lucky we are to have him with us today? Please listen to him and be grateful he’s with us. I am!”

It was one of the most surprising -and humbling- moments I’ve had as a speaker. Made even more meaningful considering Lily is just twelve years old.

My friends, the reality is I entered into that school physically in pain, emotionally drained and professionally wiped out.

But Emerson reminds us, “our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.”

That morning I was invited to be a source of inspiration and hope for these kids. Little did these students know that one of them, my friend Lily, would end up being that inspiration for me.

Today, strive to be that source of inspiration for others.

A kind word goes a long way. Just ask Lily. Or her new friend, John.

This is your day. Live Inspired.

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