Sunday at church, the pastor did not use a scripture but he wanted to have a discussion on Dr. Howard Thurman’s 1980 commencement address at Spelman College:
Dr. Howard Thurman: The Sound of the Genuine
(Excerpts from Dr. Howard Thurman’s Baccalaureate Address – Spelman College, May 4, 1980. Edited by Jo Moore Stewart, Editor of the Spelman Messenger).
“There is in every person something that waits and listens for the sound of the genuine in herself…
There is in you something that waits and listens for the sound of the genuine in yourself. Nobody like you has ever been born and no one like you will ever be born again – you are the only one. And if you miss the sound of the genuine in you, you will be a cripple all the rest of your life, because you will never be able to get a scent on who you are.
Do you remember in the Book of Mark, Jesus and his disciples were going through the hills and there appeared in the turn of the road a man who was possessed of devils as they thought. In the full moon when the great tidal waves of energy swept through his organism and he became as 10 men…screaming through the hills like an animal in pain and then he met Jesus on the road. And Jesus asked him one question, “Who are you, what is your name?” and for a moment his tilted mind righted itself and he said, “That’s it! I don’t know. There are legions of me and they riot in my streets. If I only knew, then I would be whole.”
So the burden of what I have to say to you this afternoon is: “What is your name? Who are you, and can you find a way to hear the sound of the genuine in yourself?” There are so many noises going on inside of you, so many echoes of all sorts, so many internalizing of the rumble and the traffic, the confusions, the disorders by which your environment is peopled that I wonder if you can get still enough – not quiet enough – still enough to hear rumbling up from your unique and essential idiom the sound of the genuine in you. I don’t know if you can. But this is your assignment. ”
“…Way back when I was still a nurse, I had a profoundly deep desire to realize my then undefined reason for being. I knew I was supposed to be doing something and I had no idea what that was. Looking back on it now, I believe that yearning was coming from the something in me that was waiting and listening, straining its ears, parched and starving for the sound of the genuine in myself.
I think this something that waits and listens for the sound of your genuine is the Real You. I mean, really, by the time we’re adults, we’ve put on layers and layers of protective clothing. We’ve had to hide our real selves so we can stay sane and whole and functional. The world is a pretty cruel and prickly place, after all. And it’s sometimes totally necessary and desirable to put the Real You into protective custody. Unfortunately, however, the Real You can get misplaced. It can be frighteningly easy to forget who the Real You is.”
And for me?…
It’s almost two years and I still have an unsettling spirit. It’s yearning for something. It’s anticipating something. I, too, have felt that there is a greater purpose for me living in New York. I always had the option to leave, but something keeps me here. Even though I may not have my dream job or the man of my dreams, New York just feels like my dream. Whatever reason I was lead here, I feel like I am close to a revelation.
When I moved up here two years ago, it did not take long before I began to feel lost when things were not going to “my plan”. I looked around and it seemed as though “my plan” was working out for everyone but myself. I felt out of place, alone and misunderstood.
This year has taken a positive turn. I am learning how to courageously live in the now. Because what is happening to me now is helping me discover who I am. I don’t want to miss out on the “genuine” Brittney. I don’t want to be suffocated with societal pressures and opinions of who I should be or where I should be or how I should live. I want to genuinely become Brittney. I was lost but I am slowly finding my way. The little light of mine is shining a little brighter because I am listening to the genuine me. It’s the best thing that I could do for myself!