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D is for Dedication

Excerpt from Pat’s best seller A is for Attitude: An Alphabet for Living.

You can tell when you meet someone who leads a value-centered life, who has dedicated her life to a just cause. It’s in the shine of her eyes, it’s in her step. She doesn’t wonder where she’s been or where she’s going, nor does she need to make any apologies for her actions. And she never, ever feels lonely or poor. Her life is rich and full of purpose and people and pride. It’s a life worth living and sharing.

Do you know what you value most? Look at your agenda. Look at your checkbook. Wherever your time and money live, that’s where your treasure lies. When asked this question early in my career, I saw clearly – in black and white – where I was investing myself, and it didn’t square with what my heart and soul treasured. This question was my wake-up call. I felt ashamed at the time. But with the shame came awareness and the opportunity to do things differently.

What is most important to you? There are as many right answers as there are people in the world. Here’s a visualization exercise to help you start to get a handle on your true north, your authentic values.

Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and get in a comfortable position. In your mind’s eye, imagine yourself on one side of a raging, whitewater river with a thin slippery log stretching across to the opposite bank. Visualize someone in jeopardy on the other side of the bank that gets you so frightened that you quickly cross the log to help. What did you see? Who or what propelled you to risk your own life for its sake? That’s where your passion and dedication lie.

Here’s another way to pinpoint your cause célèbre: Think about the last time you went above the call of duty for something or someone else. What drove you? Was it connected to a spiritual calling? Was it a mission that took on a life of its own?

If you haven’t ever committed yourself to something beyond getting past the next nine to five, it’s time that you got involved. There is too much to be done, and no one’s talent can be spared. You don’t need to do it all: You do need to do something.

Explore what you can do to lift the word response from the word responsibility, to make your life mission more than a laminated statement tucked in your wallet, to put action behind all those good intentions, to grab all the opportunities that lie before you to make a difference for others. Become convinced that you have the ability to do what needs to be done and the willingness to use what you have to get what is wanted. From now on, you are an opportunity magnet, constantly taking the pulse of each new situation. You think for the long and short haul, not just for the moment, not just for yourself. You’re late for a command performance!

Some of my sweetest and best memories come from my work for just causes. Moments that I’ve spent working for improvements in education and housing have written some of the finest chapters in my memory book and brought contentment to my heart. For example, as supervisor of the 18th Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, which includes Lesotho, Botswana, Mozambique and Swaziland in Sub-Saharan Africa, I am currently raising money to put chairs in 42 schools throughout the district. Up to this point, the children have been attending school without many of the basics classroom supplies and furniture.

Your cause and mine might be very different. You might not care deeply about housing and education. You might find that park preservation or helping handicapped children or dancing with the elderly or feeding the hungry or establishing car-free zones or another one of a million causes is more your speed. We each have our own rich history and culture that play a role in choosing those things that deserve our dedication. Pick the cause that you believe in and then do the work.

Let this message be your wake-up call.

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