There is something about the end of each year, regardless of how good or bad the year began or ended that makes me pause and reflect upon my life and this reflection always leaves me with an array of emotions. I learned a long time ago to embrace “whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul” (Spafford). I must admit that I am at peace with the hand of cards that 2017 dealt to me. Would I change anything if I could? Of course, I would change several things except the entire month of December. For some cosmic reason December blew me away in so many awesome and breathtaking ways as my creativity blossomed in vivid color, I re-connected with a dear friend on Christmas day, and I just felt so damn good about everything. I could not have been blessed with a better ending to the final chapter in the 2017 book of my life. I am inspired and confident that 2018 will be a significant year to remember.
As you begin to write the first chapter in the 2018 book of your life, consider being “the change that you wish to see in the world” (Gandhi). There are so many societal ills that need to be addressed on many levels. Consider if you will, the continued inequality, racism, colorism, hatred, disparate treatment, drug issues, crime, climate change, health and socioeconomic issues, poverty, hunger, homelessness, religious persecution, silencing, and shaming among other issues. We have come so far and yet, we still have a long way to go in order to live in a society that embraces all people – a “more perfect union.”
The late Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1965) once stated, “an individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” My late parents taught me to give back to society, to offer a helping hand and to give of my time, my talents, my skills and my creativity unselfishly and without seeking personal gain. I have done so remarkably! It was ingrained in me from childhood to make a difference in the lives of others through service, to stand firm in my convictions, and to use my voice with great passion about issues that mattered. As noted by the late Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1965), “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” We simply cannot be silent about the wrongs we see in society. We cannot be silent about inequality, injustices, racism, colorism, hatred, disparate treatment of people because of who they love, skin color, ethnicity, or national origin. We cannot be silent about drugs destroying communities of color, high crime rates, climate change, health and socioeconomic issues, poverty, hunger, or homelessness. We cannot be silent about religious persecutions, the silencing of those who speak their truths, and the shaming of others among other issues. I could not be silent about the issues affecting girls and women of color.
We must stand up, speak up and take action to right the plethora of societal ills. It is through action, advocacy, and perseverance that social change takes place. It only takes a spark and your spark can be the change needed to move our society forward. I believe that everyone possesses talents and skills that empower them with a unique calling. There is enough room in this world for your unique calling to be the change needed. You never know how your actions, interactions or reactions can make a difference and be the catalyst for a change that will be beneficial to society in many ways. We must use our voices, our talents and our skills because somebody, somewhere needs somebody to carry the torch and blaze a trail leading to change.
Somewhere somebody needs an opportunity to begin living a fulfilling life. Somewhere somebody needs your voice to advocate for them. Somewhere a child needs a tutor; another needs a mentor, a hot meal, a warm home, encouragement, and programs to inspire. Somewhere a young mother needs a helping hand, compassion, inspiration, and a chance to reach higher ground. Somewhere a senior needs a friend to talk to, assistance of some type, someone to brighten his/her day and give a warm smile. Somewhere a young man needs an opportunity to achieve his dreams or perhaps a second chance. Somewhere somebody needs a jump-start on his/her journey. Somewhere somebody needs to be loved unconditionally. We are all members of the village and as such, we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers! “We all need somebody to lean on” (Withers, 1972) at some point on our journey. Be somebody’s opportunity!
Today I received an e-mail from a recent guest on my talk radio show (Complexity Live) thanking me for the opportunity and noting, “you have created a platform that is so important—you are the change you wish to see in the world.” In another e-mail received from a colleague earlier in the week, it noted, “congratulations and continued blessings in your unique calling.” A Facebook posting from another guest noted: “Dr. Culbreth, I have to commend you for the amazing work you’re doing for the betterment of girls and women of color!” My “unique calling” focuses on the psychological, emotional, physical and social well-being and growth of girls and women of color through advancing, celebrating, embracing and empowering them personally, academically and professionally. I love what I do with every fiber of my being – this is my passion and purpose – what I identify as my life’s work. I am living my dream in color using my talents, skills and voice to make a difference. Indeed, my calling is unique and I am the change that I wish to see in the world. I am trailblazing a path as a torchbearer.
So my friends as you prepare to welcome 2018, “be the change you wish to see in the world” (Gandhi) with the belief that your efforts will leave this world better than it is now. You do not have to become famous when using your “unique calling” to bring about change. The late Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1968) once stated, “Not everybody can be famous but everybody can be great because greatness is determined by service…You only need a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love.” Go ahead and do what you do best because it is deeply ingrained in the inner fabric of your being – you will be making the world a better place.
Remain strong in your convictions, beliefs and values. Speak your truths unapologetically, take a stand on matters of great importance, define yourself for yourself, live with purpose, love with great passion, and be your inspiration. The power is within! You have a voice so be heard, you have talents, share them and you have skills so put them to good use. In 2018, “be the change that you wish to see in the world” (Gandhi).
Best Wishes for a Happy, Healthy, Prosperous, Successful and Love-Filled 2018!
“With a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love” (King, 1968).
Dr. Donnamaria Culbreth
From me to all of you: A Change Is Gonna Come