Who Are You?

by Jay Fadden

A woman looks at her reflection in the window on a bus

What am I doing? Am I making a difference? What is my purpose? These are questions that bubble up in my brain, then seem to subside, squashed by the everyday rigors of life. When these questions pop up, they are somewhat disarming and cause deep reflection. They make me account for my life and what I have done, what I haven’t done, and what I have become. The answers are not always simple or pleasant. If I am honest with myself, it can quite frankly be hard.

There have been moments when I have questioned my commitment to others or doing the right thing. I question whether I have been kind or generous with my time, gift, or talents. Have I turned my back on those needing help because of finance or social standings? What have I become?

To seek and discover the truth about ourselves is important and can lead to improvements and also a sense of loss. It is the loss of opportunities and time that can never be recaptured. We cannot, however, dwell on what we cannot recapture, but instead must move forward with a newfound desire to improve as a person.

When I was a young man, I had illusions of grandeur. I was single and had few responsibilities, and the world seemed much easier. Questions and answers were easy, with no grey area. It seemed as easy as “see a problem, fix a problem” because I did not know the world as I do today. I had hoped to be more and contribute in a way that would change people’s lives and lift up those who were downtrodden. But time has a way of melting away intentions. “I will do it tomorrow” becomes the rallying cry that is never answered. Our own problems replace those of others, and we become stuck in the quicksand of our lives.

I am now middle-aged and married with 3 children. With confidence, I can say that I have given a great deal to my family and have done it happily and with love. I have committed time and effort to my extended family, and I am pleased and satisfied with that effort. I have tried to help others in different ways and to be present for those needing help. But there are questions that still plague my thoughts: Have I done enough? Have I wasted time?

The answer is that I have not done enough and I have wasted time. I have not done it on purpose or with malice. My mistakes happened through misguided priorities and taking the easy road.

It is so easy to ignore a problem or to be blind to the struggles of those around us or beyond. I stay in my safe cocoon while people suffer outside my view. It seems that my thought is that if I cannot see it, maybe it did not happen. I am ignoring the problems through disassociation. In reality, suffering and injustice is happening, and by ignoring it, I am condoning it. What am I doing?

When I was a teenager, I wanted to be a fireman or a rock star. I am neither. I gave up on those dreams many years ago. They disappeared like smoke in the wind. Though I did not realize those hopes, I did fulfill others.

I believe God calls us all by name and that I have done some things in my life that I am proud of today. My family, work at CatholicTV, and my friends are all parts of my life that I devote time and effort to gladly. I have tried to help those suffering and donated time to others. I have not done it to the extent I wanted, but I have tried.

Ultimately, today I am a person still trying to find my place in the world. My contributions do not have to be huge, but can be small and unnoticed—as long as my efforts are honest and good. But they cannot wait until tomorrow, because tomorrow is a dream and today is reality. Tomorrow can wait, but today is now.

Asking these questions is a healthy way of taking inventory of our life today and leads to the greater question: Who am I? I am not done growing and evolving as a person, and I hope that I have many contributions to give. Now it is up to me to fulfill the potential that God gave me. I may not be able to change all the injustices in the world, but I can effect change.

It reminds me of a story someone once told me.

Two people were walking on a beach. There had been a storm that had washed up thousands of starfish. The starfish lay on the beach and the sun would soon kill them. One of the people bent down, picked up one of the starfish, and gently placed it back in the sea. The person who was with her said, “What are you doing? There are thousands of starfish on the beach. It doesn’t matter placing just one back!” The other person tuned to him, smiled, and responded, “It matters to that starfish.”

Will you help that one starfish and make a difference?

So I ask you: What are you doing? Are you making a difference? What is your purpose? Who are you?


Who Are You?