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The speech: What is Your Passionate Gift? (featuring the debut of the poem “I Won’t Tear You Down”) was given at the Department of Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) Champion’s Breakfast, October 3, 2019, at the Peninsula Workforce Development Center, in Hampton, Virginia.

Copyright: Curtis D. Wray, October 2019, all rights

 

Good Morning All:

I want to thank you all for the opportunity to speak to you today; for coming to this special event, and specifically, Missy Edmonds for all of her efforts and work in putting it all together. It feels good to step through the opened door of new horizons and opportunity to talk with you from the standpoint and perspective of an inspirational speaker and entrepreneur, instead of talking to you about my profession as a state worker in Rapid Response, which is almost a closed door, and some of my team members may find boring. And speaking of inspiration, my task is to motivate you in a special way. I humbly hope that I will be able to do that. My talk today is entitled – “What Is Your Passionate Gift?” Have you ever asked yourself that question?

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I am not going to spend time talking about me. You can apprise yourselves by going to my website: theconsummatetransitioner.com and look at the “about me” section…later. I look forward to coming to this event each year. Last year, I was thoroughly influenced, impacted, and motivated by the dynamic motivational speaker, Mr. Early Jackson, a Life Coach at the company New Direction Coaching and Associates, here in Norfolk.

He said two things that stuck with me. First, he said words to the effect: Find what you like to do and that is your passion. Second, find what comes easy to you and that is your gift. When I heard the word gift…I instantaneously had a mind’s flashback to 1969, when I was twelve years old, and was a student at West Cleveland Junior High School in Shelby, North Carolina, in a section called Boiling Springs, in the classroom of Mrs. Cheryl Anita Daves. I remember Mrs. Daves as the consummate professional, immaculate dresser, and strict disciplinarian, totally in charge of her classroom. One day, Mrs. Daves gave the whole class an assignment, where she gave us five minutes to write a poem. I cannot remember how it came about, that I chose the subject…something about a man’s feet crunching in the sand. Everyone got a chance to get up to read or recite what they had created. Most people had nothing. Others had one or two lines. By my last name being Wray, I was last to read, and at my turn, I read the poem in its entirety and all of the verses rhymed…I think…it was fifty years ago. 

To my surprise, I received a clapping ovation from the class. Mrs. Daves rushed toward me and hugged me, and said “Curtis…that was so creative…you have a gift.” I really did not know what that meant…and did not have the maturity or capacity to understand. I moved on in life, as life got in the way, and did not think about it much. But, I never forgot what she said; her warmth and inspiration…it burned slowing in me like the low flame on a stove awaiting the chance to burgeon forth with brilliance and warmth. Was poetry my gift? Was creativity my gift? I would ask myself that question after hearing Early Jackson’s presentation. So upon much reflection, to expound upon Early Jackson’s definition, I think your passion may be what you want to be; but your gift is what you ought to be and need to be. I say again: Your passion may be what you want to be; but your gift is what you ought to be and need to be. And, you are truly fortunate and blessed if you possess both of those…a gift and passion. Please stay with me…I going somewhere with this. Everybody still with me?

The second thing that flashed in my mind was a lesson on humility of how you develop the vision to see your gift. In 2006, I had moved on from Workforce Services Supervisor at the Virginia Employment Commission to being a Rapid Response Coordinator. In 2007, I was visited in my office by a Hearing Officer named Cynthia Hassan. I was frustrated and humiliated about something that day that I cannot remember, and I said words to the effect: How did I end up here anyway? I was a commissioned officer in the United States Navy, and Navy Officers do not come to work at the Virginia Employment Commission. That was my pride and arrogance talking. Ms. Hassan stoically retorted: Mr Wray…do you believe in God? In my frustration, I hastily and almost angrily said: yes…but what does that have to do with anything? She calmly said: “Mr. Wray…you are where you need to be, to see what you need to see.”  Then she quietly got up and left with my mouth still open and on the floor, and on the way through the door, said, “now have a good day.” As I let what she said marinate and soak in, after she left, I started to ponder her statement…that in true humility you don’t just hear, but you heard, which is listening. And, you don’t just see, but you saw, which is vision, with it all having a much deeper and innate and intangible meaning that provides you clarity and vision to see what others cannot imagine or see. So, I developed this internal jingle…”Humility a Vision for Destiny” – “Perhaps in life…you are where you need to be. To experience, feel, and see what you need to see. To understand the importance of the virtue of humility. To help shape and prepare you for your destiny. Because you have so much more to give to and for the betterment of humanity. 

And, I started to walk and look around the office to see what it was that I needed to hear and see. One day I noticed a poster that I had casually looked at and walked past for four years and it said words to the effect: Military Transitioner. Again, I had walked by it hundreds of times. This time, I did not just see it…I saw it for a deeper meaning. I said to myself, what does transitioner mean? Does it mean transitioning within the service or out of service. So, I looked up the word transitioner, and to my surprise, it did not exist in the traditional Merriam/Webster dictionaries. So, I gave it a definition…a transitioner – “one who transitions.” Life is continuous transition from the time that we are born until we die. Later, in mid 2007, I was doing a Rapid Response Employee Briefing for impacted employees being laid off at a company called TDS Automotive; and, at the end of the presentation, a nice woman came up and thanked me saying words to the effect…thank you for providing us this information, so that we can do our best and be the good transitioners doing our layoff. This time, I did not just hear, I heard. And, there is that word again transitioner. When I returned to the office, I looked up the word best. The words were to perfect or to consummate. Then one day listening to the Steve Harvey Morning Show, he was talking about how he wanted to impact his dash in life to be positively remembered for the ages. I googled dash, and it took me to Linda Ellis’s 1996 poem “Your Dash,” that you have a birthdate and a death date. And your dash represents the totality of your life.

And a couple of versed goes like this:

And spoke of the following date with tears, but he said what mattered most of all was the dash between those years.

For that dash represents all the time that she spent alive on earth.  And, now only those who loved her know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not, how much we own, the cars, the house, the cash. What matters is how we live and love and how we spend our dash.”

What will you do in between those dates to positively impact the world, to pay if foreword, to reach down the ladder and pull someone else up; to give back. Thus was spawned the idea and initiatives for my inspirational internet site: theconsummatetransitioner, which is still ever-evolving. And to clarify and expound, is not just about living your best life. You can be nefarious and live a good life…and to recite verses off of Lil Duval and Snoop Dog’s famous parody song “Smile” (Living My Best Life) “living a year off fraud and eating good off your food stamp card” is not your best life, but illegality and dependency on the system. I hope with that song it does not send the wrong message to the impressionable; the listeners, that they understand that it is a parody. It is comedic exaggeration for laughter and enjoyment and not reality. The reality is in my opinion, is that your best life is when you can prosper and get off the social welfare system. So living your best life is by giving and living and becoming your best self.

The emphasis and underlying theme of the song, however, is to take time to be mindful of where you are and enjoy the moment. And, that is good as long as it is also wholly understood that the reality is that life does not stand still and any element of success worth having is hard and a struggle. And, life keeps moving forward and tomorrow will not remember yesterday. So, what is the The Consummate Transitioner? It is a holistic concept, created in the Spring of 2008, – living and giving and becoming your best self in all that you do, in your studies, education, work-life, morally, spiritually, and physically. Life is a race that is in constant transition; and, the only way to win it is to stay in it. “The race of life is not guaranteed or given to the swift or the strong but to those who endure and keep running to the very end.”  The tortoise did not possess speed or strength, but he did one thing, he did not quit; he kept going; he kept running. Perfection has no end state; it can never be accomplished, but we should continuously raise the bar, by trying to get to the finish line of perfection. It is expected that you will make, learn, conquer, and hopefully, transcend your mistakes. Your life is a continuous work in progress to always choose right and to fight the good fight until the end.

So from the ashes of humility, you can overcome and transcend your mistakes and rise to be something greater than your original self. Again, to quote Early Jackson, “This is all about destiny. Sometimes even our biggest mistakes turn out to be the catalyst for our greatest moments.”

We have life examples. Oprah Winfrey was fired as a reporter. Michael Jordan was cut from the varsity basketball team. Tom Brady was too slow. John McCain was a prisoner war with a broken back. John Kennedy had PT-109, had an injured back, but equally displayed remarkable courage and heroism. And John Kennedy said  “I firmly believe, that as much as I was shaped by anything, so I was shaped by the hand of fate moving in World War II. The war made us. It was and is our single greatest moment.” I think we can all agree that the very nature and character of the way they, those mentioned, lived there lives transcended any setback or mistake they may have made.

So if you want to find vision to see and become what you ought to be then embrace and learn from humiliation. Embrace humility and you will find vision to discover your gift and your passion.

Another point I want to talk about is on success. It means different things to different people. To some it means a big title, a fine expensive car, or a mansion with many rooms. To me, success does not mean any of that. First of all, to me success is merely perception to the ones that appear to have it and the ones who want to attain it. I like Steve Harvey’s definition of success words to the effect: The delta or difference and the distance between where you were and where you are. That is good, but again, you can be a crook can live a good life and still appear to be successful. So let’s expound and address the innate and the intangible. So here is my definition of success; for it embraces the whole person concept. Hence, success is not your tangible and visible end state. It is your journey and struggles to get there. I say again, success is not your tangible or visible end state. It is your journey and struggles to get there. What roads did you take? What choices did you make? Was it handed to you because of privilege? What struggles did you overcome? What is your character? How were you shaped by your experiences? To some of us in the real world, the struggle is real. From one there is some and from some there can be many. So let no one determine your success. You determine your success. In all of your endeavors give life your best.

I mentioned struggle earlier. My final point is that life is a struggle and I believe it is meant to be a struggle. We struggle down the birth canal; we struggle to breath, we struggle to walk; to talk; we struggle to learn; to graduate as we move through the many transitions in life. We will make mistakes in our struggles. Without mistakes and experiences, there can be no trials and tribulations. And, without trials there can be no testimony. And, without testimony, there can be no example to and for those that will come after to follow. Life is not linear; it does not follow a straight line. It is filled with peaks and valleys. So we must develop the success mindset…that success is not meant to be easy; it should not be easy, but is meant to be hard. John Kennedy said in his famous Go to the Moon Speech: “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too.” Booker T. Washington (a corrected mistake…should have been Frederick Douglass) said “power never concedes without force, it never had and it never will.” Hopefully, I have given you some inspirational words to move forward on in your journey. Maybe like me last year, someone needed to hear what I said today to step out in-blind-faith.

For those who want to follow me on my new journey of positive inspirational and poetic spoken word you may do so at:Twitter – TheRhymistGift (later changed toTheRealRhymistGift) and Instagram – TheRhymistGift (later changed to TheRealRhymistGift)

What is a rhymist? A rhymist is a poet…a person who writes with creative rhyming poems. To be clear, I am aspiring to become an intellectual poet, and I am not a rapper. I do not gyrate, I am too old and stiff. I do not use vulgarity, profanity, or expletives in my creative work; nor, do I understand the need to do so. After the Early Jackson presentation last year, I took a year off from my company…writing inspirational poetry, which will become part of my new business plan. After fifty years, was Mrs. Cheryl Daves right?  Did I find both my passion and hopefully my gift, which is a blessing. I will answer that question with an inveterate try. Again, to quote Steve Harvey, “Do not ignore your gift. Your gift is the thing you do the absolute best with the lease amount of effort. Your mission, your purpose and your destiny will all be tied to one thing – your gift.” So…what is your passionate gift?

Hopefully, you will decide that as I debut my first poem: “I Want Tear You Down.” Look at your neighbor and say neighbor…I am here to build you up and not to tear you down. There is so much negativity in the world, but we can create our own positivity with those five simple words.


Early Jackson – Quotes on passion, gift, and and destiny, October 2018.

Linda Ellis – Quotes from the poem The Dash, 1996.

Ecclesiastes 9:11 – “I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong…”

Aesop’s Fable – “The race is not always to the swift.”

John F. Kennedy – World War ll experiences; and, quote from the Go to the Moon Speech, 1962.

Frederick Douglass – “Power never concedes without force, it never had and it never will.

Steve Harvey – Internet quotes on success and your gift, 2019.

Curtis Wray is a United States Navy 21-year veteran, a retired enlisted and commissioned Surface Warfare Officer. He has over 21 years in the Virginia Workforce Development System with experience at the Virginia Employment Commission (1999 – 2007) in job services, unemployment insurance, and a passion for the art of Rapid Response service delivery, providing this service while at the Virginia Employment Commission (2006 – 2007 and 2017 – present); the Governor’s Office for Workforce Development 2007 – 2008; the Virginia Community College System (2008 – 2010); and, Thomas Nelson Community College (2010 – 2017).