So why’d I cry when I heard Linda Cliatt-Wayman speak at the Massachusetts Conference for Women? After weeks of pondering this question and days of listening to the speech for the sound bites that touched me most profoundly, I realize that I don’t want to answer this question. The reasons are so personal and close to my heart. But I promised, so here is the only explanation I can provide: In a room of ten thousand people, I felt as though Ms. Cliatt-Wayman was speaking to me.
Ms. Cliatt-Wayman’s message was a call to serve. Although her primary focus was on children and education, her secondary message was equally important: whatever your passion or talent, use it to help others.
And for me, Ms. Cliatt-Wayman, was the perfect messenger. She is every woman; not some suit-wearing, manicured, perfectly-coifed executive; not a minister or missionary living a frugal life of God. I felt as though Ms. Cliatt-Wayman is a woman like me: works hard, comes home, cares for her family, embraces their joys, and grieves for their hardships. Yet she is changing the world around her, risking her very life, and serving the children at Strawberry Mansion High School.
Ms. Cliatt-Wayman, by sharing her personal story, made me feel as though I do have talent; I should write and perhaps inspire others; I should speak out for causes dear to my heart; I should take risks, but always with the hope of helping others.
When I first started this post, I had eight sound bites I wanted to talk about. I have decided to include only one here, for it was the one I found most incredible. Ms. Cliatt-Wayman shared her fear of speaking in front of such a large audience and said, “In a dream God spoke to me one more time and he said, ‘Linda, you must go there. There is someone in the audience.’ And that is all I heard” (11:08).
I had been hanging on every word up to that point, which is truly amazing considering I have a two-year old’s attention span. So these words made me wonder, was she talking about me? Was this message mine?
Then I looked around the room of 10,000 people and realized there were thousands of others asking themselves those same questions. I wondered, how many of us sitting in this room feel as though Ms. Cliatt-Wayman is talking directly to us? And I thought, the more people who feel like I do, the more great works will be done.
And that, my friend, is the power of one.
Note: Other great sound bites from Ms. Cliatt-Wayman’s speech are found at these minutes: 9:36, 10:29, 10:50, 11:58, 12:51, 13:50, 14:05. Oh forget it. Just listen to the whole thing.