I had a poignant, painful conversation with a wonderful old friend last night. It reminded me of when someone I love, plagued with mental illness, had a large knife to my throat at age 16. My mind wrestled incessantly between fear and faith. I said everything I could think of to diffuse the situation while questioning whether I’d lose the opportunity to breathe again. It’s one of many memories that sears my conscience… Today – I’m o.k., but decades later, he’s still not. Nevertheless, I am his advocate, and my commitment to him summons my passion for bringing awareness to the larger plight.
There are many passions that we pursue because we’re so good at them, we could seal the longevity of our careers; but, there are others that we embrace for different reasons – because of their meaningfulness, our connection. In recent days, mental illness awareness has heightened, in part because of actor portrayals, social inequities, and national tragedies. For me though, it’s a matter of the heart. Not only has it touched my life, but it touches our classrooms.
Many people think of mental illness in the context of adults, but it also adversely affects children. Bouts with bi-polar disorder, the strain of schizophrenia, and the mayhem that so often espouses manic depression aren’t just fodder for entertainment. For many people, this is everyday life. Albeit this subject matter has far more gravity than previous posts, I approach it because it is still tied to passion. I’ve learned that many of our readers balance passion for things of pleasure with passions that compel them to embrace important causes, too.
I recall the passion of a young lady named Carla who poured herself into efforts for the March of Dimes. April championed the call to raise money for Breast Cancer Awareness. Molly became a spokesperson for suicide prevention after her son took his life. Tom started the Amschwand Sarcoma Cancer Foundation after losing his mother to the disease and contending with an 18-month battle of his own. I take advantage of constant opportunities to destigmatize mental illness and educate the underinformed.
Our contributions to meaningful causes don’t have to be enormous, but I implore you to choose one – and make it significant. Nearly twenty years ago last month, one of my closest family members died of HIV/AIDS; but, he would be proud to know of my involvement with an HIV Prevention and AIDS Awareness organization. Combining my passions for writing and speaking put me in the forefront of some of their most successful galas and on the same stage as Susan Taylor, Editor-in-Chief-Emeritus of Essence Magazine, who’s now spearheading a passionate cause of her own. She was floored by my tribute to the organization’s founder, but more importantly I was able to share the importance of the cause with an enormous crowd of captivated listeners.
I believe nearly every family knows of tragedies that affect people within our immediate circles. It may be alcoholism, health crises, educational ills, or more. I still encourage you to pursue the passions that will inspire you to work tirelessly everyday. However, let’s add to our list pursuing passions that transcend monetary gain. Make your mark by making a difference.
#lightupthedark #someoneneedsyoumorehtanyouknow #pursueyourpassion
Picture: Striving to be a light in the darkness.