Two weeks ago I watched a grown man cry and it was extraordinary.  They were neither tears of sadness or joy. I suspect they were tears born out of a deep humility, appreciation for others and a calling to serve.

The man was Colin Powell and the event, which was one of his last public appearances before dying last week, was for the school named in his honor; The Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership.  

He was interviewed by his daughter Linda. She asked her dad questions about how he went from being a son of Jamaican immigrants in the South Bronx to become the first Black national security adviser, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and secretary of state. An emphasis was placed on the role City College played in his unlikely rise.

I was attending as I both teach at the College and am working to help establish a Student Mobility Lab there. One that is designed to better understand and invest in those factors that contribute to the upward trajectory of its students.  In short, to figure out how we can create more stories like General Powell’s.

He was asked about how, after a life in public service, he chose to become more involved in the college that would eventually bear his name.

He recalled one day while visiting the college, he met with a group of twelve students. He asked each of them to say a little bit about their parents, where they were from and what they wanted for their future.  In recollecting their answers, his voice began to crack, tears welled in his eyes, and he struggled to get his words out.  Until finally, he shared  his realization,  “My God, this is me…And that’s when I decided I needed to do more than just show up a couple times a year.”

When we achieve some degree of success, let alone a lifetime of it, it can be easy to rest on our laurels or provide “drive by service.”  Just dropping in a few times a year to do something good for others.  

Caged in by our everyday trappings, we miss the opportunities to reconnect with our own story. Never having the Powell epiphany – “My God, this is me”  when meeting others. 

An epiphany that can inspire us to give back and serve more deeply.

I would suggest watching the segment I just described.  It can be found in this clip and starts around the :45 minute mark.  But more so, I would encourage you to find someone who might allow you to have your own “My God, this is me” moment. Whether that be returning to your old neighborhood, or alma mater, or finding a mentoring opportunity near you.

Doing so may or may not  move you to tears, but it is likely to help someone else move up.

Leave a Reply

Sign up here to receive Moving Up Mondays

Receive our weekly email, delivering inspiration and perspective every Monday morning.