Do you know you’re a gem? Yes you, you radiant, sparkling, dazzling thang you! If you only knew and believed in how divine you really are, your life would change in an instant.
I believe that we are all gems. I mean c’mon, something magical had to happen to manifest the cells that make up your radiant self: from your eyelashes, heart, to that unique personality that only you embody.
My shimmer is the power to lift and shift people to be better and do better for themselves and others. How? Through the art of human connection – talking one-on-one, motivational speaking and through various forms of multimedia storytelling.
As a former TV reporter, PBS show co-host and founder of Go Inspire Go, a nonprofit that features a multimedia platform to tell authentic stories of everyday heroes and leverages social media to share them with the world, I have experienced the power of storytelling firsthand. Through GIG, our goal is to inspire the hero in you to take action by learning about the struggles and triumphs of others. I’ve had the honor of learning and experiencing the stories of people from all walks of life – a successful businessman who donated his home for a year to a homeless family, a school bus driver who makes and delivers meals to those in need after his shift everyday, a mother of three who makes superhero capes for children facing treatment, among many, many more. Sharing these stories continues to inspire tens of thousands of people to discover the hero inside and take action in big and small ways.
Whether I’m interviewing the owner of a ski resort, a homeless person or a teenager who has attempted suicide – they all had one thing in common – they want to be seen, heard and understood. Everybody wants to feel like they matter. But most people I’ve met don’t think they matter that much. That certainly was the case for me.
My story begins in Southeast Asia. When I was eight months old, my family and I fled Vietnam just after the Fall of Saigon in search of the American Dream.
We landed in South Sacramento, California – all 10 of us crammed into a mobile home with four bucks to our name. Hearing about celebrities and other successful people, I certainly didn’t think my story compared or that I could amount to their level.
As I grew older and began to pave my own path, I felt guilty that my I wasn’t excited about the careers that my parents wanted me to pursue. “Be a doctor, lawyer or engineer,” my mom would repeat in her cute broken Chinglish accent. But these educational tracks weren’t for me. Instead, I felt most at home as a communicator. I LOVE to read, write and talk. While reading, I would pretend to be the characters and change my voice while reading storybooks aloud – “Ameila Bedelia,” “Where the Wild Things Are” and anything and everything by the great Judy Blume.
The first person that validated and saw my penchant for communicating was
Carolyn Weber, an Oxford-educated professor who was teaching at my alma mater, The University of San Francisco. After turning in my first paper, entitled “A Snapshot of an Experience That Changed My Life Forever,” where I detailed growing up as a poor immigrant, I wanted to drop the class. I was worried I couldn’t amount to her standards and that she would rip the papers to shreds. The following week, she returned the paper with a smile and in her British accent said, “lovely job.” I rushed to read her comments – “You are such gifted and lively writer. I hope you’re doing something with this talent?” My life changed forever.
These words shook my soul. It was as if someone said, “I see you! I feel your power.”
I never felt like my story mattered: a poor, Chinese kid with a quirky personality and penchant for stories. But it did and still does today. Fast forward about 20 years and boy I wish I could tell that frightened kid that “You are more powerful than you think. Your words will lift, gift and shift people. They will be used to heal and make the world a better place. Own it.”
Like all precious stones, somewhere along the line some of us got dusty and let’s be real, some of us have been dragged through the mud. But I’ve found that being honest with ourselves, discovering our power and sharing it with others is the key to finding true joy in life. Ultimately, when you shine, you radiate and invite others to see themselves from your unique reflection.
So what makes your story unique and have you had the courage and generosity to shared it? If not, why not start now? Share your sparkle with me.
Onward and upward,
Toan Lam is the founder and Chief Inspirator of Go Inspire Go. You can share your story with him by visiting ToanLamTv.com.