I love the Beyonce song, “I was here.” It’s an inspiring and anthemic reminder and call to action regarding our purpose. Consider these lyrics:

I wanna say I lived each day, until I die
And know that I meant something in somebody’s life
The hearts I have touched will be the proof that I leave
That I made a difference, and this world will see

I was here

In this context and most, “here” refers to the specific time and place that we occupy.  It can be our family, our homes, our communities, our schools, our workplaces, and on and on. 

For some, their “here” is constant. They are grounded in a place sometimes by choice other times by lack thereof. For others, they are constantly on the move to find greener pastures or new opportunities. A detachment that is made possible by courage or privilege or both. This place-based definition of “here” is explicit in Beyonce’s song.

Another interpretation of “here” is in the context of an offering.  For example, “here, have this” or “Here, let me help you.”  This definition of here is implicit in the song.  It is the difference of which she speaks and longs for.

When this pandemic came, I can proudly say that I tried to live in the spirit of this song, both by recognizing the many places I occupy and doing what I could in my work and personal life to offer my help and services to others.  I was more present for my wife and children, checked in frequently with friends and family. Stepped up my efforts in mentoring students who were struggling. Finding ways in my work to try and make a difference in the lives of those directly impacted.  I did the best to take care of myself and others in every space I occupied.  I was here.

Lately, as the days, turned to weeks, to months and now approaching almost half of a year, I have found myself retreating.  My “here” has grown smaller in every single way during a time when it should be expanding.  To raise your head and your hands to help under unrelenting bad news and pressure can seem almost impossible.  Yet it is completely necessary.  

I am reminded of words from another source of inspiration that I have often turned to, Walt Whitman. 

Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?

That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

You are here.  I am here.   Here…

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