As I said, if you are living your true purpose, you begin to make a more significant impact. That impact affects not just your own life but the lives of others. That brings to mind that tribute I would like to offer my friend who recently passed.
It is possible that some on this email list will know her. She lived in the Richmond, VA area, and she has been promoting her "Keepin' it Real" program for a long time.
Shirley T. Burke was an amazing and inspirational woman. She went by "Shirley T." and those who knew her loved her.
I first met Shirley T. somewhere between 2004 or 2005. I was still married at the time although I am pretty sure by then I knew I wouldn't be staying married much longer. I belonged to a ladies' only gym a few miles away from my house. I managed to go to the center for a workout two or three days a week. Sometimes I worked out on the machines. Most of the time, I went in for step aerobics class because I enjoyed the music and the routines.
On the night I first met Shirley T., the regular instructor was out for the night. Shirley T. was her substitute. What was noteworthy was that Shirley T. was not your typical aerobics instructor. She was probably in her late 50's at the time--maybe even early 60's--and she was what you might call a "big girl." She shared with the class right off the bat that she had knee and hip problems. She wouldn't be doing all of the routines with us, but we were not to worry. She would "talk us through it." She assured us we would still get a good work out.
And we did. But the workout isn't what was notable about the evening. During the cooldown, Shirley T. gave us a pep talk. She told us that we needed to congratulate ourselves for "showing up" for ourselves by coming to class that night. She acknowledged that sometimes people don't want to come. But when they make themselves come to work out anyway, they need to be acknowledged.
I am sure she mentioned something about "You matter" because that was one of her signature talks. She tended to say that as though it were a mantra. "You matter. Don't ever forget or doubt it. You matter."
She inspired me that night.
She was right. I hadn't wanted to go to class that evening. But I decided it was something I needed to do for myself. I had "shown up." It was a big deal. And she acknowledged each of us for having made that decision for ourselves.
After the cooldown was done, I went to her to thank her for her message. I felt a little like I had been in church. She had touched my heart and made me feel better. I wanted her to know that.
I didn't see her again until the spring of 2013.
The next time I saw Shirley T., I couldn't place where I had known her from before. I recognized her face, and I knew I knew her from somewhere. But I couldn't figure it out until a month later when I saw her again at another meeting. I remembered that long ago step aerobics class. I went over to her table and asked her, "Did you used to teach aerobics for Victory Lady?"
She looked up at me and said, "Lawd, child, I still do. Not that you could tell it from looking at me. But I keep tryin', you know what I mean?"
I told her that I still remembered her pep talk from that night all those years before. I told her that it had meant a lot to me and that I had felt inspired by her message about showing up for ourselves.
What I discovered was that that was Shirley T.'s purpose in life.
Shirley T. Burke
She inspired people with her motivational messages. But perhaps even more importantly, she inspired people with the way she lived her life. Her speaking business was a ministry in action. She called her messages, "Keepin' it Real," and "You Matter."
Sharing the importance of "Keepin' it real" was Shirley T. Burke's purpose in life.
After I started my business, I began to see Shirley T. around a lot. She and I attended several of the same networking meetings for women who were running small businesses.
She took an interest in what I was doing and invited me to be a guest on a community cable TV show she hosted a few months out of the year. Whenever I saw her, I went out of my way to give her a hug. She always seemed to be so happy to see me. I know I was always glad to see her.
The thing is I was one of the dozens--perhaps hundreds--of women in this area who feel this way about Shirley T.
She took us all under her wing like a mother duck tending her flock. She always had a kind word for each of us. She was always encouraging. She was a mentor to many.
She had surgery on one of her hips a few months ago, and as luck would have it, things took a bad turn. She has been in and out of the hospital and rehab. Nothing the doctors could do seemed to help.
She was in a rehab facility near where I live, and I went to see her a few weeks ago. She was asleep when I entered the room, but she woke up while I introduced myself to her husband. Her face lit up, and she said, "Well, Lawd child, look at you."
I squeezed her hand and told her I had been keeping her in my thoughts and prayers. I told her I wouldn't stay long because I didn't want to wear her out. I told her I would be back, and that I expected her to make a full recovery.
Within the week, she was back in the hospital.
By Thursday, we got word that the doctors had run out of options. They were sending her home and arranging for hospice. I am not even sure she made it home. The next message I got was that she was gone. This post is in part a tribute to her life and her contribution to the world.
Shirley T. was a living example of someone who was living her purpose every day.
I plan to offer a short series of posts on living a purpose-driven life in the next few weeks. As I said, I hadn't thought I would be dedicating them to my friend, Shirley T. Burke, but it seems most appropriate to do so.
So, let me ask you. Are you living a life that is purpose-driven yet? Or are you still trying to figure out what your purpose is?
I hope this series will help you discover your purpose if you haven't already done so.
Until next time.