Years ago, I taught English and music to children in Ajloun, Jordan. This was one of the richest experiences of my life, but there were significant challenges too.
I had always been a word person. From an early age, I wrote stories and poetry. During college I wrote and performed songs. I was known for my ability with words. I was known to be articulate and gifted.
But the children I taught in Ajloun did not speak English. Many of their parents had limited English. Even the other teachers at the school operated, for the most part, in Arabic, although they could use English as a second language.
Suddenly, my words were gone. How could I express myself? How could I prove my worth in the world? How would anyone know that I was smart, or spiritual, or articulate? What would I do during this two-year assignment if I had no words?
Over those two years, I discovered the gift of presence. I didn’t need words nearly as much as I’d thought. My presence in the room with people was what they valued most. My smile, my warmth, my kindness—these gifts spoke very loudly without my ability to use words.
After so many years of perceiving that my only value lay in my intelligence and my abilities with words, it was a great relief to understand that it was enough just to be me. I was the gift.
When we understand the power of our presence, we can begin to express the gift that matters most. We can be more aware of our facial expression, tone of voice, posture, and mood—and how all of those things affect other people in the room. When someone needs us, we can relax and simply be there without feeling so much pressure to do something or say something. The time will come when we need to speak or take action, but sometimes we rush to the speaking and acting without realizing that the greater gift is to be there and to be truly present to the person who needs us.
This week, practice awareness of your presence.