One of the most life changing conversations I have ever had with my mom was one I had with her earlier this year believe it or not. I received a call to sit on a panel for black history month. I was initially very excited about being asked to sit on this panel it was to be the first black history month panel Macy’s in Houston would ever have. Then, I saw the flyer; Mae Jemison would possibly be one of the panelists. Now it’s not that I don’t love Mae Jemison I am more than impressed with her, and proud of her, the truth is I was intimidated. My mind began to reel with negative self talk. “Why would anyone want to hear anything I had to say when on the very same panel is the first black woman in space? I mean come on, everybody is impressed with astronauts! I mean I’m just a little girl from the hood in Dallas, that came to Houston went to school, got job, and started a business. Nothing too spectacular about that.” In the midst of all my negative talk, I seriously contemplated not participating in the panel. I mentioned the opportunity to my parents in passing and they asked me when it was perhaps they would fly down to be there. I then told them I wasn’t sure I could fit it into my overloaded schedule.
My mom sighed and said, “Carla, her tools are no more important than your tools.” I’m thinking, “OK, here she goes.” (Don’t you just hate that your parents know you so well?) My mom proceeded to explain to me, “Everyone has been given a job to do on earth and they have been given tools to do that job. You can’t do your job with the wrong set of tools. If Mae Jemison had growing and running a staffing business tools, she would have never made it to space. Just like if you had been given astronaut tools you would never opened and grew your staffing business. So, don’t you ever think someone’s tools are more valuable than yours. The tools are valuable when they are in the right hands.”
It was like a light went on in me that I never knew was off. We each have been given a job to do here on earth at exactly this time. It is not by chance that we are here today or even that you are reading this article. Before the foundations of the world were formed it was known that you would be exactly where you are, at exactly the point in your life, so despite what anyone may tell you. You are right on time. This is your time. It is time for you to sharpen whatever tools you have, whether they are your intellect, your ability to build things, your excellent navigation skills, or your compassion. Take care of your tools and prepare them for use. Use them to do whatever job it is that you have been given to do here on earth today.
I can’t tell you what you were put on earth to do. But if you have not found it, I can tell you how to identify it. It sits in your soul and in your heart and when you see it you will know it. And it will be a passion that you can’t get out of your system. So sharpen your tools so when the time comes for you to use them you are ready. I heard someone say, “When you stay ready you ain’t got to get ready.” So, I caution you to stay ready. Sharpening your tools can take on many forms, education, experience, exposure, but be sure when it is time to work, your tools are ready and you know how to use them.
If my theory that we each were put on earth to be of some service to all of mankind, is correct, if you fail to do your job, you are doing a huge disservice to mankind; because the world needs your gift. Your tools are the means by which you will share that gift with the world. And if you don’t share that gift with us we will never be all we could have been as a community, as city, as state, as a nation, or as world. That is how important you are to the world. And that same gift given to someone else is just not the same. That gift was uniquely crafted for you.
I heard a story once about a young boy who went to the Mississippi to visit his grandmother, around 1945 and his grandmother took him to the corner store and as they waited in the colored section of the store to be helped. The store keeper said, “Boy stick your hand in that jar and get you some candy, you sho’ are a good boy.” The young boy looked up and said, “You stick your hand in there and get the candy for me.” The store keeper gasped but before anything could be said, the young boy’s grandmother smacked him across the face and said, “Boy you apologize to Mr. Sam he is a good man and was showing you a kindness.” The young boy with tears in his eyes, looked at his grandmother and the store keeper and said, “I just wanted him to get it for me because his hands are bigger if he sticks his hands in there he will get 5 gum balls if I stick my hand in there I will only get one.” It’s all about whose hands it’s in.
In my hands, a microphone is worth about $99.95, but in Oprah’s hand a microphone was worth $275 million last year.
In my hands, a tennis racquet is worth $29.99, but in Serena Williams’ hands it was worth $17 million last year.
In my hands a golf club, is worth $144.95, but in Tiger Woods hands it was worth $110 million dollars last year.
In my hands blood is something to be washed off but blood in the hands of Dr. Charles Drew gave us the foundation for the modern blood banks.
A law book in my hands is an interesting read, but in the hands of Thurgood Marshall it is the desegregation of schools and the first African American Supreme Court Justice.
I challenge you to use your tools.