“…Here in my most desperate moment, two people I had spent a lifetime avoiding: a homeless man and little kid, who I thought had so little to give, gave me so much.” — Jonathan Gravenor— Jonathan Gravenor
It may be a lofty statement to say that a TED Talk has the power to change the world, but some ideas resonate with us at our core. And this is one of those talks.
The talk we’re sharing in this article is a reminder to evaluate what truly matters to us. It’s a reminder that before money, before our perceived successes and differences, are people. Always. Our relationships and connections are what gives life its spark. But how often are we giving those we love what they really need? And what about ourselves?
Jonathan Gravenor’s story of coming back to himself and his own family with guidance from a child receiving chemo in the chair next to him, and a homeless man with a dog named Molly, brings us all on the journey back to the important things. It’s a story that shows how confronting our prejudices can quite literally save our lives and reveals the power in the smallest, simplest gifts shared between us.
Are you ready for this?
There’s a phenomenon that happens all the time: an often unspoken yet deeply felt separation. It puts us on an imaginary scale; one where the “higher” you are and the more people you can “look down on” the more meaning you have in society. There’s a belief that this is what makes us important. But, is that reality?
It’s all too easy—actually encouraged—for us to slip into this role; to be defined by our careers, to think that our success in work equates to a quality life. But what’s really driving us in our quest for success? What prejudices have we formed that are separating us from the real happiness we’re looking for?
“My journey took me through the life of a journalist, where I spent 30 years writing, talking about and investigating other people. I stood in front of cameras playing a role I thought I needed to and in that, I lost myself along the way. It became more important to be the job than to be me.
I have discovered now so far down this road that the most important roles I am playing are that of father and of me.”— Jonathan Gravenor
I pulled this quote from Jonathan’s about page on his website—it sums up his journey better than I could ever. To give us the rest of the story on how he made that discovery through his battle with cancer, and the small gifts that he stumbled upon along the way, here he is on the TED stage:
Head over to Jonathan’s website to learn more about him and check out the book he’s written (that’s for sale), called The Other Side of Ego, that brings us deeper into his story. You can also stay up to date with him by following him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!
If you’re interested in hearing more thought leaders discuss their great ideas, there are hundreds more amazing TED Talks over on their website. You can also see our personally curated selection, here!
Rethinking what we’re striving for…
“I started to realize that we can all die in just one minute but we can all live a million amazing moments, filled with passion, filled with pain, filled with love, angst, anger, anything we want.
And that I had lived half a century avoiding any negative emotion and trying to insulate myself against the poor, the needy, the desperate. I tried to surround myself with rich, famous, powerful people thinking, if I got to be with them, then I could live in this sort of benign happiness. And if I felt any guilt about the homeless, that I could wait until I made more than I needed to give them some of what I had. But here in my most desperate moment, two people I had spent a lifetime avoiding, a homeless man and little kid, who I thought had so little to give, gave me so much.
I had a lot more to do but that more to do wasn’t me saving other people; that more to do was me seeing other people, me receiving, and in that, giving them the power to heal others.” — Jonathan Gravenor
I made the bold statement at the top of this article that this talk could change the world. But do you see what I was getting at, now?
Once we realize there’s more power in a funny face from the neighboring hospital bed, sharing space together, a laugh, a touch or a smile, than any money, success, or power could bring us, we open ourselves to something that can heal our deepest wounds.
It’s the small acts that matter. It’s seeing each other, appreciating each other, and quieting our egos that reveal the true sweetness in the simplest parts of life. This is where we find success. It’s where we build the structures and the support to bring us back to ourselves and those who mean the most to us.
I asked Jonathan how we can each get started on this journey ourselves; how we can get to work after watching his talk and reading this article. And his answer wasn’t a simple one.
You see, there’s no secret ingredient, no one-size-fits-all solution or list of steps we can take that will promise results.
It’s a sum of life-long practices: of noticing, pausing, and sitting with our initial reactions; of listening to and seeing the people we interact with; and remembering the promises we made, to ourselves and our loved ones. This awareness isn’t something that will come to us overnight. It needs time to percolate, to become a part of our daily motions. But it’s possible—Jonathan’s story is evidence enough of that.
So, if you’re looking for that first step, try pausing. The next time you’re feeling strongly in any sort of way, stop and notice what happens to that feeling with a little contemplation. Cultivate awareness. Everything often begins to change shape when time gives it space.
For more great stories on our connections with others, give these articles a look:
And if you need a few tips on how to start chatting with someone you don’t really know, check this one out:
Stay open to new possibilities! What small gift will you give to someone today?
“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” —Albert Einstein
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