All of us have something in common.
No matter who you are,
Where you’ve come from—
Whether you are a man or woman,
Famous, notorious, or relatively unknown—
No matter your size, your race,
Or your health,
Or your economic circumstances—
We all once were children.

At one point in each of our lives, two ideas were imposed upon us.
They are two ideas that would be presented repeatedly by our parents, our teachers, and our pastors that would fundamentally be the catalysts that would alter the carefree nature of our childlikeness and set us on the path to what would become for many of us: a joyless adulthood.
Those two words—those concepts—those governing principles are these:
and Obligation

We have this idea in the world that, without the acceptance and implementation of these two concepts, we will all fall apart.
No one will go to school or clean their room or go to work.
We will all just lie around in our beds making a mess of things.

There is something wrong with this kind of thinking though.
It presumes that none of us have any life in us–
No inspiration or dream or desire to impact those around us
And they are entirely dependent upon a generating factor called FEAR
“If I don’t do this then . . .”

But we were not created to be governed by fear.
Not at all.

Let’s imagine for a moment
That I have the power to remove those words from our world.
From your world.
I can simply take the concept of responsibility and obligation and make it as though they do not exist.
Instead, I can present you with an alternative reality.
In this reality, you are no longer a creature with responsibilities and obligations.
You are a human being who has unmeasurable life and potential coursing through your veins.
You have the power to invent, to discover, and to heal.
You have the capacity to see the world around you in a way in which no one else can.
You have the ability to inspire and create.
You can dream.
You can be a child.

Have you heard the phrase, “We are human beings not human doings?”
And yet we measure ourselves and those around us by our accomplishments.

Let’s pretend that we are no longer ruled by the tyranny of obligation and responsibility.
We are each one a miracle,
A creation capable of immeasurable potential.
Instead of a creature with responsibilities, we become living, breathing beings who are responsive not responsible.

Buckminster Fuller said, “I am not a thing — a noun. I seem to be a verb.”

Let’s say I have the magic to transform you from being a thing—a noun—into a verb.
You will not make choices based on what you are obliged to do, or expected to do.
You will make choices because you are responding to a set of circumstances—
Responding to a person in pain or in need with whatever you have in you to give them.
Whether it be something material or immaterial—food or shelter,
Or hope.

Let us imagine we can go back in time and recapture our childlikeness.
We can greet each morning with wonder and not snooze buttons,
We can dream and look upon all things optimistically,
We can be invincible.

Are you feeling afraid?

If you remove my sense of responsibility and tell me to be like a child, I will let people down! I can’t just let go of all of my obligations and become childish!

Actually, I believe the opposite is true.
If we do not let go of responsibility and obligation,
We will let one another down.
We will let ourselves down.

Howard Thurman was an influential African American author, philosopher, theologian, educator and civil rights leader. He said, “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

There is a fundamental difference between “childishness” and “childlikeness,”
Between becoming “careless” and “carefree.”
I’m not proposing that we become foolish,
I am proposing that we set our eyes on the goal to rediscover the wonder of the child who resides within all of us.
To live our lives intentionally and without fear.

When we are presented with a need,
When an organization or group of people have committed themselves to make a difference in our world, in our cities,
Instead of thinking along the lines of, “What is my responsibility here?”
I urge you to think, rather
“How will I respond to this need?”

The difference is between thinking of obligation and what is expected of us as apposed to, How will I, as a human being with immeasurable power and potential, respond to this need right now, in this moment?

We are surrounded by a world in need,
Of stories from across the globe of people who are desperate for help.
If we are VERBS and not NOUNS,
If we are presently and continually ACTIVE and CHANGING,
How can we keep from being overwhelmed by all of the opportunities that surround us?

There is a wonderful proverb called “The Boy and the Starfish.” It goes like this:

A man was walking along a deserted beach at sunset. As he walked he could see a young boy in the distance, as he drew nearer he noticed that the boy kept bending down, picking something up and throwing it into the water.

Time and again he kept hurling things into the ocean.

As the man approached even closer, he was able to see that the boy was picking up starfish that had been washed up on the beach and, one at a time he was throwing them back into the water.

The man asked the boy what he was doing, the boy replied,”I am throwing these washed up starfish back into the ocean, or else they will die through lack of oxygen. “But”, said the man, “You can’t possibly save them all, there are thousands on this beach, and this must be happening on hundreds of beaches along the coast. You can’t possibly make a difference.”

The boy looked down, frowning for a moment; then bent down to pick up another starfish, smiling as he threw it back into the sea. He replied, “I made a huge difference to that one!”

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