Who am I? Why am I here?
In her sermon at the diocesan confirmations at the Cathedral a couple of weeks ago, Bishop Budde told the confirmands how important it is to become – to be – your unique self. The temptations to be other – to be less — are powerful. There are, after all, no guide books, because no one ever in the history of the world has been like you. You are meant to be you, and if you are not, if you imitate someone else, the world is deprived, is the poorer, for the lack of what you are and what you are meant to do.
Whenever I hear this line of thought, some of the figures that come first to mind are creative artists. Indeed, the very first person who came to mind shortly after and reflecting on her words was Mick Jagger. Can you imagine anyone more perfectly epitomizing being true to what one is and was meant to be. Regardless of your taste in music, you cannot but be in awe of the constant flow of new musical creations from his mind – the constant surpassing of any boundaries, of forces that would hold one in check. But that was just the first name that came to mind. What is true of him is equally true of Cole Porter, of Mozart, of Frank Lloyd Wright, of Margaret Mitchell. I would add to this panoply inventors and scientists, each in their own way and in their own fields listening to that inner voice which gives them the confidence and strength to go where no one has gone before, believing in themselves and in their calling, beset and harassed as they often are by the doubts of skeptics, as was Thomas Edison.
It isn’t only those in fields that lead to world fame that do their work on earth by being true to themselves and to their calling. I include one of my personal heroes, Dr. Frances Kelsey, a medical officer with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, who 50 years ago saved thousands of babies in the United States from being born with no hands or feet, as was happening in Europe, because she stood firm against tremendous pressure from the pharmaceutical industry and refused to approve a drug, Thalidomide, for sale in the United States.
No, this applies to every field of endeavor and not just in our occupations, but in every environment of which we are a part. You may find yourself being the lone voice in a group flirting with some action you know to be wrong, called to turn their hearts and their minds.
I thank you, Bishop Budde, for your words and guidance. There is no more important message to convey to young people.
“No one hides a light under a basket, but puts it on a lamp stand so that all may see.”
Ron Hicks, Parish Verger, St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Washington DC, 24-November-2015.