We need you here.

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Last week, after encouragement from my amazing community of friends and coworkers, I did something slightly uncomfortable and really vulnerable. I signed up to perform in a poetry slam. Poetry has been an expressive outlet for me for a few years now. It is not simply a type of writing to me; it’s a form of expression, coping, a safe haven, processing, reflection, healing, extreme vulnerability, and altogether a truly remarkable art. Don’t get me wrong, I am no Maya Angelou, Charles Dickens, T.S. Eliot, or Emily Dickenson. But when I signed up for the poetry slam, someone told me that you can’t compare one person’s art to another. Sometimes I can’t find my words, and sometimes they aren’t very good, but they matter.

My words matter and yours do too. This poetry slam was part of my school’s “Dream Big” series, which revolved around a tribute to MLK. I stood up on a stage in front of a theater full of people of different ages, backgrounds, political views, religions, races, sexualities, and stories. That evening was one of the truest embodiments of unity that I have ever seen. I hugged strangers of all kinds and the theater erupted with support, giving merit and worth to the words and stories of those who were brave enough to stand up and let us into such a vulnerable state. The truth is, we really are not all that different. Whatever story you have, no matter what race, religion, sexuality, or story you hold, you are a human being who was put on this earth for a reason. Your story holds great worth. Your words have power. Your feelings, no matter what they may be, have merit. I learned what speaking up and speaking out means. I am learning to use my voice (loud one at that) to tell my story and quiet my voice to listen to others’ stories.

I was asked to share another poem at the final Dream Big event this Thursday. Though sharing such vulnerability is difficult, I am honored to stand up and share my story in hopes that I touch someone in the audience. I hope to use my story to help others, because all of us are on some sort of path to healing. Your story, like mine, could bring healing and help to someone who is hurting. Vulnerability is so difficult sometimes, but as a great woman Brené Brown once said, “Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”

So whoever you are or wherever you come from, we need you here. Your story has purpose and power.

Whether you are hurting or thriving – we need you here.

Whether you are black, white, Asian – wherever you come from and wherever you are going – we need you here.

Whether you are rich or poor – we need you here.

Whether you are a Republican, Democrat, Independent – we need you here.

Whether you are straight, gay, transgender – however you define yourself – we need you here.

Whatever you wear, think, like, dislike – we need you here.

If your past is full of hurt and the present is difficult and the future seems dark – we need you here.

Friends, there is a seat at the table just for you. Come as you are, bring what you have. You are loved and are worthy of belonging.

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