Student at University of Sydney
National Young Leader Award 2013 Finalist
There was once a farmer who plowed diligently in the fields day and night. He sowed seeds upon the soil and patiently nurtured each one. Weather conditions fluctuated and birds often came to pick away at the seeds. Different seeds grew differently over the course of the year, but the farmer continued to persevere in sowing every seed carefully. Through the droughts and the storms, entire fields of crops were once destroyed. Yet, each time, the farmer returned and plowed again. The years of faithful sowing showed in his wrinkles, the callouses on his hands. If asked how he had the strength to return to the fields every other morning, he would always reply, you reap what you sow, keep the harvest in mind.
Consider each of our hearts and minds as fields of soil, able to be sown into. Seeds are planted every day by the words spoken to us, the images we see and the songs we listen to. Seeds are nurtured every day by the choices we make, the books we read and the people we surround ourselves with. The passing of time and tide will see some seeds grow into convictions firmly held and others uprooted and thrown away. Experiences and people will water at some seeds and pick away at others. Influence is the power of anything and everything in our lives to change the soil of our hearts and minds. And in all of it, this remains true, you reap what you sow. We have the wonderful responsibility of tending to the soils of our hearts and minds, determining the harvest that we reap. With that, I wonder, what are we allowing to be sown in us today? We have the incredible privilege of being farmers in the lives of anyone who comes in contact with us, online or offline. Today, I challenge us to ponder, what are we sowing in the hearts and minds of others?
I was privileged to be in a secondary school surrounded with peers who were highly gifted, each one committed to and excellent in their extra-curricular activities. It was not unusual for peers to be receiving prestigious awards for their achievements in and out of school. Every Wednesday, assembly sessions would be taken over by the endless line of talented peers receiving awards and recognition for their accomplishments. I remember wondering to myself then, what is wrong with me? Why I am here and not there? I remember comparing myself to each of these girls and thinking, why am I so ‘average’? There is a lie we are easily lead to believe in this highly efficient landscape of Singapore – the lie that we are as worthy as our achievements, as valuable as our productivity. Seeds of scarcity are sown upon our hearts and minds through this lie. In a time of great material wealth and hyper-speed technology, we are also more inclined than ever to think we have ‘never enough’. We seem to believe we are ‘never enough’.
In the last year of secondary school, a teacher of mine submitted a nomination of me for the Halogen National Young Leaders’ Award. It was an unexpected privilege to be amongst the five finalists in the first running of this award, recognizing students who displayed leadership in their lives without a formal leadership position. The extent of my surprise was testament to the seeds of scarcity sown upon my heart throughout the years – the seeds of ‘you are not enough’, the seeds of comparison and competition. My first response was “how can it be me?” I had not realised that every casual remark and every thought I chose to believe about myself were influencing my self-worth and the perception of my potential. The widespread belief that we are ‘not enough’ for an extraordinary life and the endless striving that persists in the lives of many, remain evidence of just how we have allowed seeds of scarcity upon our hearts.
The nomination from my teacher, the affirmation from the Halogen community and the celebration with the fellow finalists were mere seeds then. For the first time, I felt valued not because of the school I attended or the grades I achieved. With every intentional word spoken and affirmation offered, I began to see that I was more precious than my works or deeds. I was beautiful from the depths of my heart that was uniquely mine. Crossing paths with the Halogen community began to sow seeds of ‘you are enough’ – they spoke into my heart the inherent worthiness of each of us for love and belonging. Through small acts and simple words, a new harvest began within me. It is a harvest that I only begin to reap in the recent days, five years since I have stumbled into the Halogen family.
Today, I believe more deeply than before that I am enough. I am enough not because of what I do for others or what I say to them, not because of what I am capable of or what I achieve. The worthiness we possess goes far beyond that. Our worthiness is not the destination we are headed to in our striving and proving ourselves, but the truth that is our starting point. The starting point of our love is we are enough. The starting point of our leadership is we are enough. The starting point of our choices is we are enough. With who we are (all of it – our weaknesses and strengths, memories and experiences, pretty and ugly), we are enough. Do you believe?
We are social creatures of connection. We are ever in relationships that allow us to be sown into and we ourselves to sow into others. We cannot run away from influence, and we are unable to escape our identities as ‘farmers of hearts and minds’ (that of others and our own). By our words and actions, even our silence and inaction, we are contributing to the harvest. This world we live in today is the harvest of generations before us. As the relentless farmer in the story earlier, would we keep our desired harvest in mind? Would we begin sowing today? The harvest is as widespread as entire generations and their cultures, as deep as our personal convictions and faith, as beautiful as love and kindness. We are the farmers of today, influencers of tomorrow – there is no running away from this identity. There are only two choices we can pick from in this invitation: accept or ignore?