This morning I went grocery shopping. As one who doesn’t care for shopping, it’s odd to find me roaming the aisles. However, Beth hasn’t been feeling well so it was my husbandly duty. On the list was eggs so I found them and as I was putting them in the cart I remembered to open the carton and check to make sure none were broken. There wasn’t any so I gently put it into the grocery cart and went to find the next item on my list.
When Beth and I were first married we went grocery shopping together one time and were buying eggs. I picked up a carton and placed it in the buggy without checking to see if any were cracked. A kind elderly man standing near us said; “You might want to check those eggs to make sure none are cracked or broken.” We did and there were several that were in bad shape. We thanked the man, retrieved another set of eggs, and from that day forward haven’t forgotten to check the eggs or think about the man who taught us this valuable lesson.
The encounter with the older gentleman might many years ago changed the way we did things. His advice helped us look beneath the surface and double-check what we were taking home. After finishing shopping today I wondered; “Have I done anything this week to change anyone’s life longterm, for the better?”
Last week was the first time I had heard the words; “Pokemon” and “Go” together. A couple of folks in the office were talking about it and I was listening trying to figure out what they were saying, describing and deriving so much joy and interest. Like a newbie, I asked several questions but still didn’t understand the concept. Little did I know this conversation would be the beginning of an information immersion into this app game for a cellphone I would receive over the last several days. I’ve heard about it on the news, podcasts, social media and more. I’ve seen pictures of people, phone up to their faces, meandering around, running to areas where “creatures?” can be found and trying to “catch” them.
Reflecting on this latest phenomenon I am reminded how each of us have goals we pursue. We seek the elusive, the valuable, the treasured, the thing that will bring contentment and meaning into our lives. However, unless we are pursuing the truth each goal we grasp only leaves us unfulfilled and a new goal appears with further promises of purpose and peace. If we’re not careful we can spend our lives chasing, finding and capturing that which will not satisfy.
“Truth is easy to understand once it is discovered; the point is to discover it.”
This morning someone asked me if; “a leader with a strong personality is a good or bad thing?” I reflected for a few moments on the leaders I have served under. Surprisingly there haven’t been too many who’ve had strong personalities. As I whittled my way through the last I thought of two who fit the description. Interestingly enough one had the opposite personality of the other.
The first was gregarious, affable and larger than life in his expressions of love and support for friend and stranger. He was the type who would come unexpectedly into my office, plop down in a chair, talk for a while and then decide we needed to go to breakfast, no matter the time of day. He wasn’t in competition with his staff, allowed others to shine and didn’t keep a scorecard.
The other wasn’t at all like the former. His personality was certainly large but in a way that kept others in fear of their job or at least being aware their job’s future was in his hands. I do not doubt his love for other people but his leadership style could be overbearing and constraining. There was one way, his, one voice, also his. He believed his vision for where the organization was to go was the right one and took umbrage to anyone who challenged this belief. For those who were comfortable with his style, and their place in the food chain, things were pretty smooth. For those who struggled under the weight of his personality it could be difficult and debilitating.
As the conversation with my friend continued I spoke about both leaders, their style of leading and managing and their grandiose personas. “For those with over-sized personalities, whose job it is to guide staffs, peoples and organizations, not taking oneself too seriously is a good trait to possess. Humility, a servant’s heart and a willingness for others to succeed, to surpass and outgrow your ability to lead are also rare and valuable gifts. Leadership isn’t about sitting, guarding the big chair, but helping others find big chairs of their own to sit in.”
Yesterday, on my way to an incarcerated father’s class, I parked in the corner of a lot under a nice shade tree. I wanted to pause, take a few moments to review the lesson plan and still my thoughts. The weather was beautiful and I rolled down the windows, felt the cool breeze on my face and took a deep, cleansing breath of fresh air. It was a bit of needed down time in the midst of a busy day.
The moment didn’t last long. Out of nowhere a pick-up pulled rapidly around me and in front of my truck on the grass of someone’s lawn. Apparently he liked the shady spot as well and since there wasn’t a parking space covered by the shade he made one in the grass. I shook my head and tried my best to let his perceived rudeness, and the irritation rising inside of me, go. Shifting my focus back to what I was doing, I took a couple more deep breaths and realized the driver had also lit up a cigarette. The smoke from the it was wafting on the wind into the cab of my truck. Sigh! My irritation level began climbing again and so I made the decision it was time to go. I didn’t honk my horn, utter a harsh word or peel out of the parking lot, I simply left. As I drove to the County Jail I thought about the pick-up driver and how some people can drastically change an environment.
Wisdom teaches us to be careful about the people we allow to be influences on our lives. There are folks who bring love, grace, positive traits and help us become better people. However, there are also those who bring out the worst in us. Through negativity, hostility, insults of others, feeding on our fears, insecurities, biases and pain. They pollute our minds, emotions and spirits.
It’s not easy to begin filtering people’s influence out of our lives. We may be hesitant because we don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings or if they’ve been a friend and confidant for a long time. However, the ability to discern who brings stillness, peace and wisdom into our environment and who doesn’t is important and needed.