Be a Torch in the Darkness
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
This is the last paragraph of The New Colossus, a sonnet written by Emma Lazarus in 1833 to raise money for the pedestal for the Statue of Liberty.
I have always loved this poem. For me, it beautifully captures what the U.S. means to so many. My grandparents were not born in this country. They are Welch and German and Norwegian, and many other things. My grandparents were child refugees ~ their parents seeking hope, taking huge risks – dreaming of better education and more opportunity for the next generation. My grandparents were all under the age of 3 when they arrived.
I taught this poem to my freshman, sophomore, and senior classes in Slovakia. Realia, and American history & government course designed to get democracy and my “Americanism” to rub off on my post-Soviet students. The future of Slovakia. It is surreal teaching this as an ex-pat in a post-Soviet country 23 years ago. Their eager faces, their fresh curiosity, their faith. And, their utter confusion.
(the one in front on the left, Juraj, is my adopted son. He’s 41 and a Doctor in Chicago now, and I have 3 grandchildren!)
We are on a new foreign continent. Post-Pandemic. One where we don’t speak the language or understand the culture. We may be in shock and fearful. We are “tempest-tossed.” And we are “yearning to breathe free.”
Again it feels surreal. Disruption is growth.
I have a tendency to disrupt my life voluntarily as I did in 1997. Two suitcases and a cat. My climbing shoes and harness. Off to Slovakia for a year to teach with no textbooks, copy machines, or resources. I made it all up along the way.
It’s funny how choice makes such a difference. I chose Slovakia; I didn’t choose the pandemic.
The year I spent in Slovakia was the best of my life thus far. Sometimes desperate and lonely. But ultimately immensely rewarding.
One word. Growth.
I found out the depth of my strength and resourcefulness. I questioned everything. It stirred up things in me I never wanted to find. I learned a challenging new language and culture and made lifelong friends. I adopted 2 of my students. It dramatically changed my life forever.
There is no going back after your entire life has been altered. You are forever altered.
We are collectively at a similar point. Life as we knew it is forever changed. We are changed. We are many things: tired, more awake, unbalanced, shook up, frustrated, intolerant, and very aware that we can endure more than we imagined.
So now what?
What have we learned? What is the way forward? What lasting change will come from this?
Each of us will have to answer that for ourselves. We have come up against all we believe and value. What we choose next is very important.
I am re-evaluating my life, my business, my relationships… in a far more realistic and almost brutal way. Stripping down what I thought I believed to examine where it came from. Me? My parents? My schooling? Our culture? Fears?
Here’s the re-frame I aspire to.
Disruption is a fabulous opportunity.
My great grandparents came here because of hope. A chance for something better. Why else would you haul babies across the ocean and leave everything you know behind? Ellis Island was Heaven’s Gate.
What are you leaving behind post-pandemic?
What’s next for you?
What will you do with the opportunity for change that we’ve been given?
I hope you choose to Be a Touch in the Darkness
Grandpa Carl, Grandma Celia (Wilhelmena) on the right on their wedding day. Aunt Freida and Uncle Fredrick on the right.
Angela uses her MBA and background as a Marketing Director to bring Professional Branding, Profile Optimization, and Business Development Strategy to LinkedIn. Her goal is to get you to a ‘quick win’ so you can see how effective LinkedIn is and to get you motivated to use it as your #1 Business Development tool. She is a facilitator, Keynote Speaker, Coach, Author and Green Bay Packer fan. Are you using LinkedIn effectively for networking, prospecting and relationship building? Check out her 10 Day LinkedIn Challenge here and proceed to your ‘quick win’.