When I see the words “I AM” capitalized, I think of God. I think of the seven I AM statements from Christ declaring his divinity. I think of Moses asking God His name and God responding, I AM that I AM. God is.
Christians believe God is existence. As Creator, he made the world out of nothing. We are his creation. We are.
I AM is the personal of “to be.”
“To be” means to exist.
In our existence, we share in His existence. He breathed His breath into us and so we are.
If through these words God declares He is existence, then these words wear an equal weight relative to our existence.
In the Center for Human Services multimedia I AM Project, showcasing the faces and stories of Center for Human Services” CHS explains the power of these words, “for what you put after them shapes your reality.”
I am who I am because of the material with which I was born, the family and community I was born into, and the experiences that shaped my reality. When Scott Hahn wrote in The First Society, “radical self-identification is impossible” he means that we cannot choose our identity apart from all we have known. Even when we attempt to make drastic shifts from our world of origin, we still must contend with that past as we pursue the future. The past is part of our story, and not only our past but the history of our ancestors and the cultural memory within which we were raised.
But I AM can do more than that. I AM speaks to the future. It speaks to where I am going. A self-fulfilling prophecy is a belief about myself that unconsciously affects my behavior, bringing about the thing I believed to be true. We interpret experiences based on that belief. Our actions in response to that interpretation take us further down the road. So Tarwater in The Violent Bear It Away became the zealous mad prophet he feared becoming as all the evidence he encountered told him his great-uncle was right.
I am a failure.
I am stupid.
I am unwanted.
The words can break us.
I am tenacious.
I am hopeful.
I am a survivor.
These are the words that propel us forward, that shape our interpretation of the events that happen, inspiring us to keep going. Failure happens. I am hopeful. I see this as a lasting quality in myself, stronger than the failure that tempts me to believe otherwise.
When you think about who you are, what word would you use? What moves you forward on your path?
I am intelligent.
I am creative.
I am loved.
What holds you back?
I am ugly.
I am unsuccessful.
I am unlikeable.
I worked at CHS off-and-on between marriage and pregnancies for seven years. We believed in the work we did. It mattered. The clients mattered. The employees mattered. A new graduate with her first full-time job had input that mattered. We represented the agency when we were away from the office. Supervisors were there to support us. HR taught us how to navigate health insurance for the first time. I was told to go home when I was sick. I was told to take care of myself. I was told to stop thinking about work, as best I could, when I was no longer at work. They taught me professionalism; they taught me work-life boundaries; they taught me respect.
What do I do now, they asked me at the reception for the I AM Project. I write. I celebrate successes and tell stories of community and hope.
CHS taught me to do that.
Is it any wonder I am in love with this campaign? Their employees, clients and family members participated in sharing their stories, whether big or little, childlike or traumatic. It matters because the employees are not just working for the mission, they are living it out. Every one of these stories fits into the fabric that makes a great organization great.
That organization is the Center for Human Services.
I neither work there anymore nor have any professional affiliation, but the statement still moves me.