Warning: contents may lead to self-reflection, personal questioning of life purpose and the legacy you wish to leave in this world.
Just Mercy, is a motion picture I recently saw on the big screen. The movie (and the book on which it is based) is a true story of Harvard trained lawyer Bryan Stephenson who chooses to represent those underserved on death row. The story is about his journey in what I would call his life’s calling. One of the first cases he takes on is that of Walter McMillan, who was falsely accused and convicted for the murder of an 18-year old girl. McMillan, an African American, is sentenced to death and lives on Death Row. In going through McMillan’s files, Stephenson finds suppressed evidence that vindicates Mr. McMillan, making McMillan an innocent man biding his time on Death Row.
What struck me as I watched the movie (and read the book) is the clarity Bryan has for his chosen career path. He moves to Alabama at the age of 28 in 1988 where he takes on the case of Walter McMillan which ends in McMillan’s exoneration in 1993. As a Harvard law graduate, Bryan could easily have chosen a career path that would have been safer, easier, and provided a rich income. Instead, he chose to support and aide the underrepresented in the legal system which at the time challenged deep cultural biases in the Deep South. Bryan’s choices in his journey were neither safe, simple nor lined his pockets with money. It took 5 years of hard work to free Walther McMillan while facing tremendous opposition.
Bryan Stephenson’s Compass
Bryan set his compass on what was true north for him in the work he chose to do. He set sail when he moved to Alabama and took on the McMillan case. To say sailing was less than smooth is an understatement! There were strong waves of negative popular opinion in the region that could have swayed him off course. He became a target of police pressure as he challenged the Deep South’s cultural biases and opinions when it came to race and social status. Storms arose as he gathered evidence and took the case through the court system. The tenacity and resolve in his purpose is admirable and amazing.
Questions arose for me about what leads to knowing one’s path in life? How do we set our compass for where our deemed purpose lies and stays true? Bigger yet, how do we weather the waves, currents, and storms that we encounter once we set sail for our heart’s destination? Bryan is a great example of what there is to gain, not just for self but for others, by staying true to true north. As you will learn in seeing the movie or reading the book, the impact is huge for many.
What happens when we are pulled so far off that path due to our fears, the stressors or the influences of others? Will we be able to show the same resolve and strength of character of Bryan? We can hope if it is truly a passion, path, and purpose, sooner or later the pain of straying off course will lead us back to the helm to right our vessels to get back on course for whatever our true north is. Like Bryan, it not only required focus, tenacity, and belief in our purpose but it takes others who believe in the same purpose to encourage and assist us to keep moving forward in the direction – true north.
If you are living your true north path, I congratulate you, and thank you for the difference you are making. If you are unsure as to what your true north is, these following questions may provide some introspection for you. What is calling you? What do you feel drawn to do in this lifetime? What inspires and brings you joy? What is a cause you care about deeply? What service can you be to others? What would you do whether you got paid or not? Take time and space for yourself to reflect.
Each of us has an impact to leave on our world, even small gestures can positively impact more than we often know. By following our own unique true north on our internal GPS, we can live a life fulfilled and make a difference in this world. I encourage us all to don our captain’s hat, put our hands to our vessel’s helm, and set sail into the destiny that is calling out to us.
“Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires courage.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
As we try to navigate the many roads of what we call life, sometimes we get off the beaten path, make a wrong turn or simply end up in a place that doesn’t seem safe, secure or familiar. It is at times like these, that I have found coaching to be invaluable. Maureen has guided me to a road that has allowed me to continue on life’s journey with renewed energy and focus. Through gentle guidance, questions, pondering, challenging and goal setting, I have found my path, not anyone else’s. I am confident and energized by the possibilities of my current and future life!
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