Fulfill Yourself!

Opal’s Gem

Thinking of the Kwanzaa Principle – Kujichagulia or Self Determination, I am reminded of Malcolm X’s declaration that “A race of people is like an individual man; until it uses its own talent, takes pride in its own history, expresses its own culture, affirms its own selfhood, it can never fulfill itself.”

For individuals who attain this fulfilled level of existence, many of us call them heroes, or heroines or sheroes. We step back and honor people like Nelson Mandela, Marcus Garvey, Bob Marley, Rosa Parks, Oprah Winfrey, Ida B. Wells, Harriet Tubman and perhaps, Malcolm as well, thinking we can never achieve such heights in our lives. However, if we should reflect on Malcolm’s definition: affirming selfhood; expressing own culture; taking pride in own history, and very importantly using own talents, we find that fulfilling self is within reach. We need only have the will.

At some point in our lives we will experience challenges. Some say it is growth showing up as failure. Yet it is during these times we get the opportunity to fulfill ourselves. They are the times when our tears or sweat nourish our seed of success.

Take the story of Mrs. Annie Johnson of Arkansas, as told by her grand daughter Maya Angelou. Mrs. Johnson had ‘very little money, a slight ability to read and add simple numbers’ and two male toddlers. She told her husband of her dissatisfaction with their marriage. As it turns out he too was dissatisfied. They agreed to separate. For a Negro woman (it is 1903) she had very limited employment opportunities. So like the Biblical Sampson, she looked into her ‘bag’, became aware of and accepted her talent. She dug deep within, found the courage and took action. According to Mrs. Johnson, she ‘…looked up the road I was going and back the way I came and saw I wasn’t satisfied. I decided to step off the road and cut me a new path.’

The new path was cooking (her talent) lunch for the men who worked at the cotton gin three miles form her home and those who worked at the sawmill an additional five miles away. She devised an ingenious plan to sell her hot meat pies for five cents at the first site and the ‘cooled down’ pies were to be sold for three cents at the other site. Each day she would alternate the site that had the privilege of having the hot meat pies. Sister Maya tells the story that in the beginning business was slow because the men were accustomed to bringing their own lunch. But Mrs. Johnson was determined to create work for herself so that she could support her family. She would cook regardless of the weather – snow, rain, cold, heat. Plus, hungry, hard-working men could only resist the savory aroma of hot meat pies wafting in the air for so long.

Business picked up and after some years she built a stall an equal distance between the cotton gin and sawmill. Business continued to grow and years later she built a general store. Through her will and determination, Mrs. Johnson created wealth and maintained her dignity. Most importantly she earned an income without leaving her sons to be cared for by others. An onlooker may have seen the breakdown of her marriage as a failure. Mrs. Johnson saw it as a way to create a ‘new path.’

If you are facing a challenge at this moment see it as your opportunity to fulfill yourself. At this moment, know that you have the innate ability, the talent within, waiting to be used. You have the ability to reach higher levels of achievement. Rather than becoming immobilized by these challenges or failures choose instead the determination to grow and achieve, and practice patience each step of the way.

When asked how it felt to fail so many times in inventing the light bulb, Thomas Edison used the opportunity to enlighten the interviewer by saying, “I never failed once. I invented the light bulb. It just happened to be a 2,000-step process.”

May you be strengthened as you embark on your own multi-step journey, using your talents, and creating your own ‘new path’ for your success. In doing so you will fulfill yourself!

Opal O. Murray
Life Coach, Motivational Speaker and Writer

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