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Finding Purpose Through Service, Stewardship, and the Courage to Speak Up

Finding Purpose Through Service, Stewardship, and the Courage to Speak Up

Guest Post by Belinda Rose Young, MSPH, CPH

“What took you years to learn, could take someone else minutes.” This is a quote that encompasses the principles of service and stewardship, which go hand-in-hand. Service includes the actions that you render onto others. While stewardship includes an element of responsibility – it focuses on the duty each person has to ensure that they use and manage their abilities and knowledge well.

My parents have been great examples of service and stewardship in their professional and personal lives. Growing up, I was taught to find great joy in giving to others. Being from various Caribbean islands, my parents understood the need for community and what it takes for the entire community to advance – service. There is a famous song in Jamaica, where a lot of my family is from, called “No Man is an Island.” The beginning of the song starts like this:

“No man is an island, no man stands alone

Each man’s joy is joy to me

Each man’s grief is my own

We need one another, so I will defend

Each man as my brother

Each man as my friend”

It is important for women and men to both be empowered – to have the confidence and freedom to exercise basic human rights and to speak up for what they believe in. When I was a teenager, I did not feel like I really had a voice. I had a lot that I wanted to say, but did not feel as though others welcomed the opinions. I imagined that people would put down my thoughts, since I did not have much responsibility and had not undergone many challenges up to that point. So, I began to write. I wrote poetry and short stories that gave voice to my personal daily struggles. One day, in high school, it was announced that a yearly art book would be created – where students could submit poetry, stories, and drawings. On a whim, I submitted some of my work. To my shock, not only were my poems accepted, but people actually resonated with what I had to say. Others felt that I had captured what they were going through and it provided a sense of relief and encouragement to them. Unknowingly, I used some of my talents to help other young people cope with their struggles.

Going through this experience gave me the courage to start speaking up more. I became an activist within my high school and community. After graduating, I went on to pursue a bachelor’s degree. Armed with some experience, I decided to join service organizations. The more the recipients of the service acknowledged how much I helped them, the more confidence I grew. It was then that I realized that it did not matter whether or not someone welcomed my opinions. I had a voice and I would choose to use it for the benefit of others and the community overall.

The passion that I have led me to my field – public health. Though the mission of the field is large, the focus is simple – finding ways to improve the lives of people. I found a profession that allows me to be servant-minded. The opportunity to help someone who is unable to help themselves is a wonderful experience and is a reminder that this world is much bigger than any one individual. There are certain abilities and talents that I have, and I am happy to use them in the pursuit of a better world for all. With the voice that I found, I have the opportunity to stand against the injustices against man-kind. Though my audience may not always be large in size, I still try to do what I can – create a better tomorrow by serving others today.

Maya Angelou once said that “the desire to reach for the stars is ambitious. The desire to reach hearts is wise.” Although we each have personal desires that we want to obtain, the greatest legacy that we can leave in this world, is the story that our lives have told. You may never have a national holiday named after you and that is okay. You may never be invited to speak to a President or UN Council, and that is okay too. What is important is the story you choose to tell with your life. A story will be told of us, whether good or bad, by others years after we die. What will your story look like? Will it speak of you as someone so focused on themselves, that they passed the less fortunate by? Or will a nameless person be able to tell their children that their day was better because you were in it? Our legacy is our leadership.

Belinda-Rose Young is a public health practitioner, whose aim is to help others improve their quality of life. She was born in the United States, but has lived in Jamaica, where she taught for three universities. She is currently a Fellow with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Belinda-Rose received both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Health Education from the University of Florida and the University of South Florida, respectively. In July 2014, Belinda-Rose was named a UN Global Community Champion for Women’s Economic Empowerment. She is also currently a volunteer with the Red Elephant Foundation. Belinda-Rose is passionate about studying and researching how culture impacts sexual violence against women and ways to prevent it.

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