Stephanie Taylor (Essay Winner)
The WE Conference™ is pleased to recognize
a winning submission in The WE Conference™ Essay Contest
by Stephanie Taylor, Santa Ana, California.
My mentor, Daisaku Ikeda, once said, “When we draw strength from within, our outlook undergoes a dramatic transformation; everything around us looks completely different. To be strong—that is the key to happiness.”
Empowerment to me, is the ability to look at the past (not just our own as individuals, but the choices of our fathers, mothers, and other ancestors), and choose to not be defined by it. To take responsibility, first and foremost, for ourselves, is the key. When I came to the understanding that no matter what I have gone through in my life, no matter what circumstances had been bestowed upon me, no matter what poor choices I may have made in the past—none of that matters and I can absolutely transform my thoughts and subsequently my environment in an instant—I felt like I had cleaned the fog from my glasses. To master my mind rather than let my mind master me, to know that I am the creator of my life and if I say it is so, then it will be—is the greatest feeling in the world. It takes great courage to muster up the strength to look at oneself and ask: “Where am I responsible?”
Before, I would be very somber when I looked back at the past, at choices I made and experiences that I had gone through. But once I freed myself from the shackles of this, by taking responsibility for my part, a whole new world opened up to me. I told my husband before we got married that the Universe is perfect, and if I had to go through those particular experiences in order to help another somehow, then every last bit of it was worth it. When asked his nationality, Socrates is said to have replied that he was not only an Athenian, but also a citizen of the world. This kind of philanthropic spirit that transcends the narrow bounds of nation, race, region, and even gender, regards the whole world as its home. There is a great joy in putting aside our own trifling matters to attend to another; to inspire another human being that may be suffering through an act of kindness, or an encouraging thought is absolutely priceless.
Wangari Maathai expressed to the National Council of Women in Kenya the importance of individuals taking action at the local level “because sometimes when we think of global problems, we get disempowered. But when we take action at the local level, we are empowered.” Imagine a world where every single person made a determination of responsibility for their life and their environment. Yes, we may only be planting a small seed here, but imagine what the world will look like when there are billions of people out there making a contribution! Empowerment is a gift, something that I am deeply grateful for, and very eager to share.