leaders

It’s Not Personal – Until We Make It So

Praying WomanAs I sat in meditation today, I thought back on my values and priorities in life, and reflected on the political environment we are living in today. I have difficulty fathoming any environment where the behavior of the leaders of our country should be tolerated. In my experience, some or all would be fired. It’s unfortunate we cannot do so with as much ease as within the private sector. But, this is not a rant post….

I also recognize that what is occurring is not personal. As I sit here, typing, I know that there is no one in Washington who knows me, or cares about me personally. I am one of 310 million people, and it’s just not possible for them to think of me personally. This fact also makes it almost impossible for them to have any empathy or compassion for the effects of their actions – on either side. It speaks to the level of their humanity, and their ability to really LISTEN to their constituents and take action based on the people they represent.

We are the people who are taking it personally. We have personalized all of it, even though it is not so. But for us, this is what personal looks like:

  • We are the families who work hard, but still live in poverty – and the programs that were available for us to get from meal to meal, paycheck to paycheck are shutting their doors.
  • We are the people in the tourist business who are being laid off because the parks are closed.
  • We are the senior citizens who have worked and saved to make sure we were financially secure, and that perhaps we could get by if Social Security were reduced – but are now fearful that our savings will be destroyed by politicians willing to bring our economy and our country to it’s knees.
  • We are the people who received the bodies of our loved ones, taken in combat as they fought for our country – and were told we would not receive any death benefits to ease the financial burdens we are sure to face without them.
  • I am the mother of a young man who is the benefactor of a state agency’s services that will cease on November 1, 2013, because they will lose their federal funding. The non-profit is the Nebraska Commission for the Visually Impaired and Blind, and they teach the low vision and unsighted citizens of this fine country to be self-sustaining and contributing members to society.

I can’t take the “leaders” of our government’s actions personally, because they are not. I know that I am the cause of my pain, because I create my own suffering – my anger, my disgust, and my sadness.

We have choices. All of us do. I can choose to take action, or I can choose to sit in my suffering and wallow. It is a waste of my time to suffer and wallow. I can work hard to create beauty in my piece of the Universe. I can help my child wherever I can. I can write and call my representatives and senators and share my thoughts and my expectations. But, what do I do when they blatantly tell me they don’t care – they will do what they feel called to do – even when it doesn’t represent what the people who elected them want them to do? I vote.

As a coach, I ask these questions of those leaders:

If the Representatives of the House, elected by their constituents to represent them, are not taking the action we are requesting of them, who are they representing?

What makes it so difficult to collaborate on improving a law that undoubtedly has flaws, but has withstood efforts to repeal it and declare it unconstitutional?

What gives them satisfaction about holding people and our country hostage by withholding jobs and money because they desperately want to destroy the Affordable Care Act?

If they are not willing to be leaders of character, why are they there?

What has become of their humanity?

I closed my meditation this morning with a prayer: “Divine Spirit, I pray that the “leaders” of this country look closely at their behavior and rhetoric, recognizing that both are not in our nation’s best interest. I ask that calmer minds be willing to sit down in collaborative conversation, speaking with kindness and respect, and resolve their differences in order to help us move forward as the country we profess to be. Amen”

 

The Leader In a Cab

I don’t normally share the emails I get that make the rounds for years, but this one touched my Random Acts Of Kindness button, and I feel the need to give it back to you so that you might think about how you deal with your next customer, or the next person you meet as you go about your daily business.  I wish I could give credit to the author, but rarely are we ever told when these emails pop into our inbox.

The Cab

I arrived at the address and honked the horn.   After waiting a few minutes
I walked to the door and knocked… ‘Just a minute’, answered a
frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor.

After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 90’s stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940’s movie.

By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets.

There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils
on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.

‘Would you carry my bag out to the car?’ she said. I took the suitcase
to the cab, then returned to assist the woman.

She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb.

She kept thanking me for my kindness. ‘It’s nothing’, I told her.. ‘I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother to betreated.’

‘Oh, you’re such a good boy, she said. When we got in the cab, she gave
me an address and then asked, ‘Could you drive through downtown?’

‘It’s not the shortest way,’ I answered quickly..

‘Oh, I don’t mind,’ she said. ‘I’m in no hurry. I’m on my way to a hospice.

I looked in the rear-view mirror. Her eyes were glistening. ‘I don’t have
any family left,’ she continued in a soft voice.. ‘The doctor says I don’t have very long.’ I quietly reached over and shut off the meter.

‘What route would you like me to take?’ I asked.

For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me
the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator.

We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived
when they were newlyweds She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl.

Sometimes she’d ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing.

As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, ‘I’m tired. Let’s go now’.

We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico.

Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her.

I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair.

‘How much do I owe you?’ She asked, reaching into her purse.

‘Nothing,’ I said

‘You have to make a living,’ she answered.

‘There are other passengers,’ I responded.

Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly.

‘You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,’ she said. ‘Thank you.’

I squeezed her hand, and then walked into the dim morninglight…Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life…

I didn’t pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly lost in thought. For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk.

What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient
to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked
once, then driven away?

On a quick review, I don’t think that I have done anything more important in my life.

We’re conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments.

But great moments often catch us unaware-beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.

People may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said – but they will always remember how you made them feel.