May 27, 2015

Spreading the Message There's a Gem Inside Us All

Toan Talking to Kent Middle School Students in 2014
If there is only one thing you tell a younger person in your life, it should be “YOU MATTER.” Heck, you should tell that to anyone, at any age, in your life who matters – before it’s too late.

It seems like every week, I hear news via Facebook, the press or through a friend, that yet another young person committed suicide here in the San Francisco Bay Area.

I recently asked a group of millennials to introduce themselves, tell us where they’re from and give us a snapshot of an experience that changed their lives forever. One by one, the kids mustered up the courage to tell us gut-wrenching stories of the heart.

One teen told me how depressed he was because his parents didn’t know his truth and how he finally came out as gay to them. Another teen talked about her battle with booze and another talked about the sudden loss of a parent and how she was nearly out in the streets with no family. Each story touched us all. I was shocked to several of them had tried to commit suicide.

Many of them admitted they didn’t feel that who they are, what they’ve been through and even their very existence mattered. I saw the brilliance and potential power of each of them. I wish they only saw themselves through my lens.

No matter what platform I’m on – as a teacher, mentor, motivational speaker, founder of Go Inspire Go – I spread the message that “you are all gems.” Some of you may be dustier than others. Some of you may have been dragged through the dirt and mud more than others, but everyone deserves to shine. It’s my job and every human being’s job to dust off these gems so they shine.

Toan speaking about the power of storytelling with Reel Voices youth in 2014.

Likewise, every youngster should only surround themselves with people who make them shine. If only those kids who took their lives knew how much they matter, how bright their light really is – they – and the world would be a better place. One of the biggest life lessons I’ve learned as an adult is, when you let yourself shine, you reflect it onto others and they shimmer and sparkle too. We – YOU – are all dazzling beings. So let the light in!

My mentor – actor, comedian and humanitarian Michael Pritchard, whose life work is healing people through comedy – reminded me that the moon actually casts no light. Rather, it reflects the light from the sun. The unison and the yin and yang of this story gave me chills. What if we were the moon to all the sunshine we encounter in our daily lives? Wouldn’t the world and all its gems be a warmer, shinier, brighter place?

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