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Encourage the Light

In the poem she wrote for the inauguration, Amanda Gorman begins:

“When day comes, we ask ourselves where can we find light in this never-ending shade?

The loss we carry, a sea we must wade.”

Whatever your political leanings, the astounding artistry of Amanda Gorman’s language in her poem “The Hill We Climb” is unmistakable. Unshakable. Inspirational. My own mission is clear: Encourage the light in others to shine brighter.

Do-gooders in education and nonprofits are passionate about shining their light and making the world a better place, but many are facing tough challenges. The pandemic. Inner critics. Endless to-dos. Perfectionism in an imperfect world. It can be overwhelming.

For those of us that frequent noisy school corridors, hallowed university halls, and crammed nonprofit offices, the question, “How are you doing?” is too often answered by “I’m fine,” when we are all so obviously NOT fine. What’s really in our hearts are things like:

  • “I’m tired. I couldn’t sleep last night. Again.”

  • “I’m exhausted. I was at work until 8 PM.”

  • “I’m frantic. I feel like I’m juggling so many things between work and family.”

  • “I’m shaken. There’s so much hate in the world right now.”

  • “I’m anxious. My dad’s got a cough and I can’t be with him.”

It speaks to a culture of busyness -- a culture where we humble-brag about sleepless nights and multitasking, then keep on being busy busy busy without pause.

It speaks to human giver syndrome -- that feeling of holding the world on your shoulders. You give so much of yourself to others, that at the end of the day, there’s nothing left for you.

It speaks to disconnection -- this lonely time when we see other faces only through masks or zoom screens or Facebook.

Well, Amanda Gorman says:

“Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true:

That even as we grieved, we grew.

That even as we hurt, we hoped.

That even as we tired, we tried.

That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious.”

The solution is unity and resilience. Let’s come together to get through the challenges before us. We can rise into our better selves if we rely on one another as family, friends, neighbors, community, or partners. Despite our differences, we can come together and rise.

I am not Kamala Harris or Amanda Gorman. My reach isn’t national; it is right here in front of me. When I’m overwhelmed, my husband picks me up and takes on some of the load. I do the same for him. When I had a miscarriage, my best friend came and sat by my side. I do the same for her. Throughout this pandemic, my joyous, adventurous, wonderous pod of friends has come together to sustain me, just as I sustain them.

I’m in this miraculous place where I have extra light and space in me to share. I coach for aha moments. I help exceptional leaders find synergy between work, life and purpose. I build resilience and community. I spread science with a touch of magic.

So if you are feeling tired, exhausted, frantic, shaken, or anxious, I’m here. If your light is dim, I’m here. If you need support, I’m here.

My favorite part of “The Hill We Climb” is the finale:

“When day comes, we step out of the shade aflame and unafraid.

The new dawn blooms as we free it.

For there is always light,

if only we’re brave enough to see it.

If only we’re brave enough to be it.”

Being the light and encouraging the light is something I’ve lived for seven years as the Administrator at Chrysalis Charter School. Never have I seen an organization who lives and breathes its mission -- “Encourage the light within each student to shine brighter,” -- more whole-heartedly. Every teacher, every paraprofessional, every office staff, takes this mission to heart.

My superpower is seeing the inner light in you and coaxing it to shine brighter. May I be brave enough to see it. May I be brave enough to be the light for those that need me.


This New York Times article describes “The Hill We Climb” and includes the clip of Amanda Gorman’s beautiful oratory at the Inauguration. She has two books coming out this fall. If you’re a teacher, here’s a lovely lesson plan from PBS to inspire your students.


For all you do gooders out there, I’d love to encourage your light. Use this direct link to my calendar to sign up for an “Initial Chat”. No strings attached. No high pressure sales pitch at the end. Just one hour of lightness as my gift to you in challenging times.

While I am no word artist like Amanda Gorman, if you liked this post, sign up to join my mailing list at the top of my blog. One short e-mail. A few times a month. No spam.

And finally, Inquiring Minds Book Club starts next week! If you’re a mid-career professional looking for community, you’ve found your tribe.


By Chris Coons -, Public Domain,

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