How do you measure true passion?
I've thought about this a long time, spent many pages in many journals trying to figure this out. Over all of those words and all of that time, I have come to one simple observation.
The true test of one's passion and purpose is how much crap they would be willing to wade through to make the smallest increment of change. In short, what would you be willing to go through to change the world for one person?
You meet a lot of people networking; from aspiring entrepreneurs to sales professionals and business enthusiasts. Positive people and negative people, the creative and the purely logical all pack into rooms multiple times a week, share hellos, a few words, maybe even swap a business card and then move on. I've honestly never like it very much. I found the whole thing tedious and draining, even for a severe extrovert.
It's in a room just like those where I first met Katie Blomquist, the founder of the amazing non-profit organization Going Places. To say Katie is a beautiful woman seems obvious, largely because it is, and yet there is a deeper level to her beauty than that which can be observed across the room. Katie has a purpose, to provide joy, a basic childhood right, to kids in Title 1 schools. Whether through her bike giveaways or this years journey to provide Halloween costumes for kids who couldn't afford them, she is relentless in this mission.
To see her speak about this in person is to see her true beauty rise from her heart and light the room from her smile and her eyes. I have been lucky enough to see this several times and, I will tell you, like the sunrise it never gets old. Katie has an incredibly positive energy that radiates about her, she projects the same joy and love she seeks to put into the world. It is both amazing and yet not surprising at the same time. To hear her story for a moment makes you realize that this passion is as much a part of her as that same smile, those same eyes.
Katie began her professional career in marketing, but found that it didn't fulfill her, didn't speak to her soul. It wasn't her purpose and so she moved on, continuing her education and volunteering to teach in a Title 1 elementary school. She will tell you that the teachers who end up in those schools all volunteer. It's about the love, about the passion to make the world a better place, to serve and help children who truly need it. Katie pursued that passion with fervor, with a flame in her heart fueled by purpose.
Katie tells me about how a flame flickers in the wind. She points out that, as the wind kicks up, the flame almost dies. If that wind keeps going, or picks up a little more, the flame will extinguish. Her words speak to my soul, to the place I found myself at in this world, in my journey. Katie tells me about how anger transforms passion, consumes the fire that was lit and threatens to extinguish it forever. I picture the Ravenel Bridge in Charleston, a candle on it, the winds whipping, the image my head creates for the death of purpose, the time when passion is extinguished.
Katie and I share our stories, about the physical manifestation of our anger, as we lived in a place where our passions were in such jeopardy. She tells me about the moment when that passion revealed itself to exist in another form, how she learned her true purpose, how a rough road, a difficult time, showed her the place she was always meant to be. She tells me about her choice to pursue that, to be the person she was meant to be. We often forget we have to choose to be that person. I am glad that she made this choice. As Katie talks, the image in my head sees the winds die down, the candle shine brighter.
It's what hope looks like.
We talk about what happened after she made the transition. She looked different, physically different. It was a reflection of the inside of her being. Katie tells me how that transformation, that shedding of the negative, creates a light within you that people see. People saw that transformation in her, but to me this is the Katie I have always known, vibrant and full of that light. As she talks to me I reminisce a bit and remember that she was the first person to tell me they saw that same light in me after I made the decision to change my life.
To have the light in another person recognize the light in you is a treasure. A true treasure.
We talk about the fight, the battle to keep pursuing our passions. From the outside everything looks perfect, things are getting done, but they aren't done without a price. I tell Katie about how often I have wrestled with fear and doubt pursuing this dream, chasing this purpose. She tells me about similar things she faces. As she talks it becomes clear that Going Places will not fall without a great fight. Even if she is giving one bike to one child, Katie is a true believer in what she does. Her light is bright, her flame stands in the midst of all kinds of winds and stays strong. Sitting across from her it is hard to not be inspired, it is foolish to not want to be inspired.
I have seen Katie many times, shared words with her on numerous occassions, but never really spent the time connecting with her. That she is a treasure in this world is clear, but it is the extra time spent with her that shows how much of one she is. In her heart is the beat of compassion, of a warrior, of a teacher, of a storyteller, of love, of joy, of a true believer. Being around her for a moment makes me believe even more.
She is absolutely right. You can truly see the light in her, brighter every day.
Favorite Dinosaur: Megaladon
Why: The idea that something that huge existed, lived on this Earth, is just mesmerizing.