Since those of us in Maryland have been held hostage by frigid temps and recurring snow this month, I actually had the time to catch The Book of Negroes on BET which chronicled the life of an 18th century slave woman, Aminata Diallo. Aminata meets allies and enemies along the way who give her story depth, like Chekura the love of her life, Sam the Innkeeper, Solomon Lindo who brokered the sale of her baby, and Bertilda the wife and mother that she met in New York. When Aminata was preparing to leave New York to find new life in Nova Scotia, she offered Bertilda the same opportunity (a ticket out) but she refused, citing her familiarity with America, the place that held her captive. Bertilda was like a lion sleeping in an open cage.
After yelling at the TV and calling Bertilda all kinds of crazy, I wondered how different I am than she. How many times have I been offered the opportunity to venture out into something new but settled for the familiarity of mediocrity. How many times have I said to myself, “I’ll stick with the devil I know” or rationalized my attachment with painful, unproductive places rather than taking the risk to wander beyond my cage? How many times have I whined about “needing a change,” then talked myself out of applying for jobs, meeting new people, or traveling to other countries?
I remember reading about a program in Senegal last year through an Instagram post. I didn’t know anything about the sponsoring organization, didn’t know the person who posted the information, and didn’t speak the language of the people. Despite fear of the unknown, I applied to the program. After being accepted, paying the registration fees, and making plans to participate, I stood in line at the departure gate in JFK Airport thinking WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING? In a flood of panic, I sent a text and some pics to a few close friends with a message that read, “If they sell me into sex slavery, this is who you need to look for!” Yet, with tears in my eyes, I boarded that plane.
Within a few days, I had made new friends and colleagues, engaged in new experiences, and learned to communicate in spite of language barriers. Most importantly, I gained a level of understanding about development in Africa that has deepened my desire to one day serve as a US diplomat.
Maybe you’re like Bertilda and me, laying in your cage, staring at an open door. Here are a few things I’d like you to consider.
- Fear is a mask. The image is rarely as large as the shadow it casts. Fear takes on a life of its own and the thing that you fear usually looks nothing like the actual experience.
- Complacency costs. Sitting in the same place in the same position can cause atrophy. The rent you pay for staying in the cage is the degeneration of your gifts and talents.
- The time is now. Delayed decisions can sometimes mean missed opportunities. The stars may not align the same way when you finally decide to take action. People move on and resources may not be available.
As the four lepers said to one another in 2 Kings 7, “Why sit we here until we die?” There is an open door before you. Are you ready to go?