There is as lot to like about TED talks. Fact is, being offered the opportunity to give one remains a huge Bucket List item for me.
So late Wednesday evening, walking Max, I was not surprised that something I heard on “The TED Radio Hour” made me take note of the phrasing. “My job,” conductor Benjamin Zander said, “is to awaken possibility in other people.” (Zander is the musical director of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra). He said he knows if it’s happening by looking into their eyes.
“If their eyes are not shining I get to ask another question,” Zander continued: “I get to ask, ‘Who am I being…?'”
Yes! That’s it! Awakening possibility in others is exactly why I am so glad I still have the opportunity to teach. It was my job when I worked with mentally handicapped children in Atlanta; it defined my inspiration as a classroom teacher with autistic and severely emotional disturbed students in Pensacola and then Plant City; it is my focus every time I lead a retreat or speak at a conference; and it remains the most compelling reason I have for teaching Sunday school and facilitating small groups here at WFPC today.
Sometimes I fail…
But if I look closely, and their eyes are not shining, then I need to ask that other question – “Then who am I being?” And if I am honest, much of the time I do not awaken possibility so much as maybe unconsciously disturb possibility in its sleep. Other times it’s as if I merely succeed in annoying latent potential to the extent that it retreats deeper under the covers. Then, and certainly not often enough, sometimes the beautiful spirit of light and passion that God plants in everyone actually does poke its way through to the surface and I rejoice.
This is what teaching, facilitating, conducting, even writing is supposed to be. More invitation than instruction; more lighting a fire than lecturing; more relationship than recitation. To be honest it is not easy to get there over a Zoom call, and I am worried that I seldom do enough to coax the right kind of life to the surface; and when I fail it is not the fault of anyone but me.
Leading may be a lot of work but it is also privilege and responsibility. When I rush through an afternoon, cook and clean up, and fumble to get the tech up and running… yet fail to take the time to pray before opening the meeting (praying for wisdom, for guidance, and for each participant), then I have failed to awaken possibility in myself before we even begin.
I did not intend to make this entry a confessional but it looks like that’s where we landed! Fair enough. Like Rebekah in the pulpit I do too tend to preach to myself.
So today, ask God to awaken possibility in yourself, then work to awaken it in the people you love, and work with, and meet. Maybe the light that shines in your eyes will be just the invitation they did not realize they were waiting for!
In love, and because of love – DEREK