Show Up

Jamar Doyle

Life is full of surprises, if you show up every day. – LeVar Burton

In the fall of 2019, I was listening to the “Sound of Ideas,” a local program on Cleveland’s NPR station. On this day award-winning actor, director, television host, and philanthropist LeVar Burton was in the studio sharing words of wisdom gleaned from his long, celebrated career. As a child of the 80’s I listened to the show as a great fan of his. Growing up, I looked forward to watching LeVar host Reading Rainbow every day and would bug my mom for the three books he read each episode (she often acquiesced). As I grew older, I followed my dad in his fascination with technology and with Star Trek. I saw a lot of myself in Levar’s portrayal of Chief Engineer Geordi LaForge — a brilliant, compassionate, and humble officer on the Enterprise who, like me, was also very shy and socially awkward, finding it difficult to connect with those he was not already acquainted with. And I remember watching Alex Hailey’s Roots with my mother and grandparents whenever it was on TV. Together, as we watched LeVar’s Kunta Kinte struggle relentlessly for freedom, they would explain to this young child the joy and pain present in Black History. LeVar Burton’s characters taught me the joys of reading, connected me to my past, and showed me that the future held a bright place for a person who looked like me.

You can see why I was so excited that LeVar Burton was in Cleveland and on this local program. At one point during the broadcast, he said something that has stuck with me ever since. He said, “Life if full of surprises, if you show up every day.” At that time in my life, I was looking for some inspiration as the day-to-day had become mundane. My work, my community service, and even my worship was on autopilot. I was present, but I was missing the beauty of life’s surprises because I wasn’t fully showing up.

Working at CHHSM this past year has largely rejuvenated that inspiration, but a couple of weeks ago at CHHSM’s 85th Annual Gathering in Denver, I felt myself slipping back into that old routine, once again being present but not really showing up. Not because of disinterest or boredom, quite the opposite. There were just so many little things to do to make sure everything went off without a hitch that it was easy to leave no room for the silent moments where God’s presence is revealed, and to work right through moments of love, grace, and connection with those in attendance. I was in danger of letting various tasks cloud the power of the moment, the gathering of our beautiful CHHSM community.

Thankfully, many friends along the way were there to pull me back into blessed moments of connection, learning, and spiritual reflection. But this experience reminded me of how easy it is to let the task of the day mask a more divine purpose. I am grateful for the Rev. Andy DeBraber, generosity officer with the United Church of Christ National Ministries, who shared with those at the Annual Gathering his 20-minute morning daily practice to sustain your body, mind, and soul through meditation, breath work, body work, and journaling. For me it was a great reminder to practice self-care while grounding each day in God’s love, a way to be centered, present and ready to receive the beautiful surprises God sends our way each day as we tackle our holy work in health and human service ministries.

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Levity and poignancy were present in equal measures at the first retreat of the 2024-2025 Nollau Leadership Institute, held May 20-24 at Bellwether Farm in Wakeman, Ohio. #BeAVoiceCHHSM ... See MoreSee Less
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