Blessed With Hunger

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And I am ready like the young salmon
To leave his river, blessed with hunger;
For a great journey on the drawing tide.

That is from a poem by David Whyte, a poet who lives on Whidbey Island, in Washington State. I had never heard of him until I sat in a session led by a woman named Mette Norgaard. Sitting at the feet of Mette for an afternoon changed my life, but that is another story for another day. What I want to talk about right now is this thought that Mette shared with me about David Whyte’s poem and why I believe you need it in your life.

I am sure many of you already know the story of the salmon, so I won’t belabor the point too much. They are born in streams and travel to the ocean to live most of their lives, but then are drawn by an inner force to return to the place of their birth to give birth themselves. Nothing can turn them from their goal, yet many won’t make it thanks in part to bears, fishermen, wolves, and who knows what else. Yet despite the odds, they labor on. Then the salmon that hatches makes a similar perilous journey back down to the ocean, ready to accept their destiny that awaits them.

I began to think of the phrase ‘blessed with hunger’ and it struck me as odd. I never considered that being hungry was a blessing, but in truth I believe it is. When I think about that in terms of our personal lives, I believe it means that being hungry makes us desire to be better. When I think about that in terms of a small business, I believe it means a desire to make a difference… to be the best at whatever it is they do.

There are so many people in life who wander. Do you know someone like that? They have jobs but they aren’t where they want to be, and they aren’t really happy either. They aren’t doing what they have always wanted to do and they aren’t very good at what they are doing anyway because they simply have no ‘hunger’. I don’t want to be like that.

I think that may be one of the reasons why a job in higher education has ‘fit’ me so well. Just about everybody who comes through this place is looking to be better than they are now. They want more for their lives, and they are here to get it. I love that. I love being around people who want to be better. There is something in the air that is electric just thinking about all the potential all around me.

Sitting in the room that day with Mette as she talked about what it means to be ‘blessed with hunger’, I realized that I truly am. I have always had dreams and ideas about what I wanted in life and where I wanted to go, and David Whyte’s poem brought it all home to me. I am not satisfied where I am today, and though it may not be easy, good things are waiting out there for me. Being blessed with hunger is indeed a very, very good thing.

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