By MJ Ryan
Each and every one of us has something unique to contribute to the world. I truly believe that. In fact, I have spent my entire working life helping others actualize and offer their gifts to the rest of us. And never have our offerings been needed more, at least not in our lifetime. Racial and LBGTQ injustice, climate change, economic meltdown—the list is endless.
Offerings come in all shapes and sizes. They can, of course, be financial, but also physical, emotional and spiritual. We offer our beingness to one another, our gratitude, our intellect, our experience, our deep listening, our ability to, as Nikki Silvestri wrote recently, “stay present: presence is the first step in difficult conversations; in learning new information; in confronting pain; in creating space for the unimaginable.”
As social and relational beings, we are wired to contribute and when we hold back on that giving, it “stagnates and gets stinky” as psychologist Rick Hanson wrote in a recent newsletter. “Thwarted contribution is the source of much unhappiness….the wound of loneliness and heartache is about not having others to give to as much as not having others to get from.”
I’ve been thinking a lot about offerings these days because they feel to me like antidotes for all the challenges, uncertainties and just plain not-right-ness we are experiencing. Yes, it can be incredibly hard to know where to put our focus given the complexity and enormity of the problems. But let’s just start—doing more, doing better.
When we contribute our gifts, it feels good. We get energized. It feels great to be of use when we get on SheEO Venture calls and resource one another, when Ventures and Activators get together for Ask/Gives. It’s a joy and not a burden. Seeing what I am doing as an offering helps fend off despair about the state of the world and my seemingly insignificant part in it.
The needy world is calling for the gifts that each of us has. There is so much to solve, to right, to repair. In April, SheEO Activators asked one another, “What do you feel called to do?” It’s a great question to access your gifts and talents. Start by asking your closest ones that question and see where it leads each of you.
If you have trouble feeling the call or believing you have anything to offer, here are some beautiful questions from Zimbabwean-American educator Tererai Trent. They remind us that our offering can often be found in grief and longing: “[W]hat is breaking my heart right now? What in this world makes my heart ache? What does my heart long for?” In your heart’s response to the world—to what makes you sad or angry—lies the seeds of what you were meant to give.
It doesn’t matter how big or small your offering, the soul doesn’t measure in those terms. Only the ego does that. My offering combined with yours, and yours, and yours, can help tip the balance toward a world that we might want to inhabit, one that enhances rather than depletes nature and one another.
Let’s not wait for the perfect moment or the perfect offering. It’s ok if we stumble in our attempts, say the wrong thing, feel shame at have not done enough up till now. Of course, we all could do more, do better. Let’s all offer what we can, where we can, to whom we can, inspired by the words of Leonard Cohen:
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There’s a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in