This is our community

ideal-church-youth-group-sketch-1000

 

There’s a communal veggie patch, a few cows and chickens, and a fire-pit for sharing meals outdoors. There’s also a stream with a rope swing, a forest to explore, and our own private strip of beach. In my mind, the whole place has a sort of cult-like hippie vibe going on.

Look closely, and you’ll also spot a roller-coaster, a regular smattering of chocolate fountains, wind turbines, a cinema, a supermarket and a library. Of course, this is 2014 and I’m looking at a plan prepared by kids ages 12-15. Gotcha.

Oh, and there it is – the Church right in the middle. A cruciform footprint lends a dash of retro-cool, while a series of tunnels and spiral slides connect levels and outside buildings (including the soundproof indoor component of the youth area).

This was the result of asking half a dozen kids at our church to “draw your ideal church”. Michael and I were talking to the Youth Group about the concept of “church” (what is it, why do we get together as Christians, what are the ‘important’ bits) – and we thought that talking about their ideal notion of church would provide an interesting launchpad.

What fascinated me the most was how a bunch of friendly-but-not-exactly-friends / church-going-but-not-exactly-sold-on-it early teens could take the simple direction to “draw your ideal church” and translate it into something so rich. Whereas I had expected not much more than a building kitted out with beanbags and an xbox, I was in awe of the way they moved so quickly to mapping out a complete ecosystem – a community in which they had little or no necessity to ever leave. When we pushed them on this point, they explained people would need to leave to go to work, or maybe school (*collective groan*) but otherwise they have everything and everyone they need in this community.

“Community” was their word, not ours. That was the way they instantly described what an ideal church would look like. A place where people of all ages live, relax, spend time outdoors and with each other. As we talked, I began to see the vision they had in mind – it took the best bits of home (each family in this community lived in their own house), and combined the best elements of all their experiences of community (time outside, sharing meals together, making music, having fun. Existing).

I believe that “church” simply provided an outlet for them to have that discussion. It said far more to me about their desire for shared experiences and connection than about a particular desire to live alongside the members of our church or each other. What they were describing was the idea of community – the feel of being in connection with others.

Maybe they’re onto something.

The Stiletto Myth

Here’s the scene: I’m pushing a pram with one hand, balancing a takeaway latte in the other, and attempting to get up enough speed over the rough pavement to coax my little one back to sleep. Despite the mild sense of frustration as my coffee slops out onto my hand, life is actually quite good. I’ve just completed a “jog” (let’s be honest, primarily a walk with bursts of activity in between whenever the fancy takes me) and it’s a beautiful day. I mean, I’m out for a walk by the water, I have a coffee in hand and a beautiful baby by my side. Happy place all round.

I pass a local hairdresser, of all places, and notice the following quote emblazoned on the window:

“Strong women wear their pain like stilettos. No matter how much it hurts, all you see is the beauty of it”.

As I let the words roll through my mind, I nearly dropped my latte and let the pram coast of its own accord, in my haste to try and snap a picture so I wouldn’t forget it. I decided against the photo, however, when I noticed all the people inside having their colour adjusted, and I thought it might weird them out. And I realised I wasn’t going to forget the quote in a hurry.

I hastened home, mentally compiling a list of all the things that are completely wrong, wrong, wrong with that statement.

strong women quote

Side note, I have no idea what the context of that quote was. Google hasn’t helped me figure it out either, since it’s attributed to Harriet Morgan, who died in 1907, and the first usage of “stiletto” with regards to footwear was apparently in the 1950s…. thank you Wikipedia).

So, I’m responding to it on face value. 

Why should pain be hidden?

There is nothing glamorous, sophisticated or admirable in hiding your ‘pain’, whatever that may be. Men, women, children… no-one should be trying to keep up a happy facade when everything is crumbling away on the inside. There’s no point having everyone around you thinking how wonderful it must be to live your life, how happy you are, how perfect things are for you… if they’re not.

There’s a whole spectrum of ‘pain’, and I acknowledge that perhaps at one end there are things you might suppress – the fact your latte came out with a bit too much froth (no need for a teary in the middle of the cafe), or you can’t get an appointment to have your nails done until tomorrow, when you were so hoping they could be done today. Sometimes it is best just to move on, if the little disappointment doesn’t really impact you.

But even then, sometimes even seemingly insignificant events, disappointments or setbacks can compound to the point that they actually do cause pain that needs to be talked about. In my experience, the act of not talking about what’s going on inside can be what leads to a snowball effect. Things pile up, little things add layers of stress and upset, and because you’ve spent all that time telling people things are alright, it can be even harder to open up and say “No, everything’s not alright”.

I have personally experienced this, and seen it impacting people around me. On the flipside, I’ve seen people who are quite open about what’s going on for them and it appears they handle things much better – they can process challenges and upsets, talk them out and move forward.

I’ve tried to apply this myself, during the challenging few months of being a new parent. Lack of sleep, hormones and the overwhelming responsibility of protecting and nurturing this precious little being are a potent mix. I thought I was coping quite well, and that was the response I gave everyone who asked. But then a few times, I would find myself irrationally upset – I planned to go for a walk, only to find the stroller wheels were a bit flat. I completely lost it, sobbing like I was experiencing intense grief. It was a pretty shocking experience and made me realise that I was under stress, I was experiencing a certain amount of pain, and I was not doing myself any good by pretending I wasn’t. So firstly, I acknowledged this for myself, then I talked about it. I opened up to Michael about it and together we’ve been able to identify the actual problems and look at ways to make life easier. The result? I’m much, much happier – inside and out.

Does hiding pain takes more strength than being open about it?

Absolutely not. Hiding pain allows you to get on with the day to day, but it’s a recipe for disaster.

I’m sure the first day your child goes to daycare, or school, you feel pain. It’s probably prudent not to burst into tears in front of your child, as it’s not going to help them settle for the day, and so a parent employs a certain amount of strength to hide that pain, in that moment. But that doesn’t mean you should hide your distress altogether – it just means finding another outlet, such as another parent who can empathise.

Continuing to grit your teeth through whatever pain you are experiencing, and forcing a smile, might sound difficult but it’s actually often the easiest thing to do – because doing anything else seems to make us too vulnerable, and is not always well supported. How many times a day are you asked “how are you?” or “how’s your day?”. When was the last time you actually gave an honest response? The ‘appropriate’ response is just “Good, thanks. You?”, and it generally wouldn’t be seen as appropriate or ‘normal’ to give an actual, honest account of your feelings at that point in time. (Let’s face it, you don’t know the kid at the checkout and he wasn’t actually asking how you’re doing).

Even in more intimate settings, such as with friends and family, we don’t always open up about those things that are troubling us. It takes a high level of trust to expose pain to others, for fear they won’t understand or will inadvertently make us feel worse. I know it was difficult to explain to Michael how I had been so overwhelmed by a little disappointment and frustration in my day – I doubted the intensity of my emotion, I reflected on it and thought it was just something I should ‘get over’. I considered not bringing it up, but I realised that it was just going to keep happening if I didn’t address it. So I had the conversation, and I’m so glad I did.

So men wear their pain like ill-fitting steel-capped boots?

I’ve left this til last, because I’m not usually one to harp on the gender angle, and I also feel it’s fairly conspicuous here – why are women the only ones applauded for stifling their pain? I don’t believe anyone should be encouraged to bottle up negative, caustic emotions.

Moral of the story – lose the heels.

If the stilettos are hurting, they’re probably doing damage – in the short term, causing blisters that are going to stop you going for that jog tomorrow, or doing long-term damage to your muscles and posture.

If you are hurting on the inside, you are only causing yourself more tension and stress in the short term, while allowing things to grow and become more toxic, until you have a serious problem on your hands.

So take off those heels, throw them over your shoulder and find someone who will run along barefoot beside you.

It’s not all talk

Around 5 weeks ago, I was wheeling an oversized piece of luggage past the doors of our hotel in Saalbach (Austria), in order to sit and wait for the shuttle that would take us to Salzburg to begin our journey home. I caught the sound of German being spoken behind me, and soon realised – in that instinctive way that has nothing to do with the actual words that are spoken – that these words were being addressed to me.

I turned to see a middle-aged couple seated at a table just beside the door. The man had been talking to me, and I apologetically mumbled that I did not speak German. Since the only pertinent phrase I knew was the arrogant English-speakers question “Sprecken Sie Englisch”/”Do you speak English?”, I wasn’t able to coherently say “I’m sorry, I speak only English and do not speak German”. Rather I resorted to a slightly saddened facial expression, a shake of the head, and tapping my chest as I said “Englisch”.

“Ah!” the man raised his right hand in a gesture of understanding. I thought that would be the end of it, but just as I turned to sit down, I saw from his look of concentration that he was keen to continue the ‘conversation’. He turned to the woman beside him, in an apparent effort to see if she knew the appropriate English words. Unfortunately, she did not.

The mysteriously oversized luggage

He pointed at the large bag I had placed beside me, and shrugged his shoulders. I guessed he wanted to know what on earth was in such a large piece of luggage! “Ah”, I said, “a bicycle”. Realising that the word “bicycle” didn’t carry across to German, I looked around and spotted a built-up bike. I pointed, and he smiled knowingly. And there we were – having a conversation.

Fifteen minutes later, and we had covered some serious ground. We each knew our respective homes (I from Australia, and he and the lady from Dresden in Germany). I learnt how long it took to drive from Dresden to Saalbach, and they learnt how we had travelled to Austria via Canada, England and France, and that it was a 30 hour flight back home to Australia. I explained that in Australia I was studying, and that Michael sold mountain bikes in a shop. I discovered that they felt they were too old to ride mountain bikes, but instead were going for gentle walks through the Austrian countryside during their week-long holiday. I even managed to compliment the lady on how well she looked for her age! I couldn’t imagine actually saying that to someone I’d just met, but somehow it didn’t seem so uncomfortable and weird when done through gestures!

Our conversation only ended because our shuttle arrived to whisk us away to Salzburg. As we parted, he cheerly said “Goodbye!” and he smiled excitedly and laughed when I replied “Auf wiedersen!”

While it certainly took a lot longer to cover a few aspects of our lives through signs, gestures and perseverance, it was still such a rewarding conversation. I can only assume that we understood each other – for all I know, we could well have been talking about completely different things! But it didn’t feel like it; it felt like we had found a way to communicate despite the language barrier. It was a really beautiful experience.

I’ve heard many statistics that argue that the vast majority of communication is non-verbal (up to 93%!), and always wondered how even the best researchers could arrive at such a statistic. So it was incredible to see this at work in such a clear way. We didn’t need words to communicate the basic facts about our lives. We didn’t need words to show that we were interested in a conversation with one another. In fact, it was the absence of words that forced us to become aware of the non-verbal ways in which people communicate. Much like a young child who has yet to master the art of language, we were forced to utilise gestures, sounds, expressions and objects around us to show our meaning.

Beautiful Austria!

As enlightening as this experience was, it’s unlikely to be an everyday occurrence (no overseas holidays to lovely destinations like Austria in the pipeline!). However what is an everyday occurrence is miscommunication and misunderstanding driven by the fact that our non-verbal communication speaks so much louder than our words. Sadly, I can think of many relationships around me that seriously suffer because of this kind of breakdown. The listener, rightly or wrongly, feels that the non-verbal communication comes from a place of truth, while words are simply superimposed over the top and don’t carry the speakers true meaning. The speaker often doesn’t even realise the power of their non-verbal communication, which can lead to significant strife in relationships of all kinds.

So combining this experience with everyday life has made me think – if my words were muted, what would the people around me think right now? What would they feel? What am I communicating, that drowns out my words anyway? What must people think when my gestures, expressions and actions don’t quite line up with my words?

It’s a big thought and it’s not always easy to keep on top of your non-verbal communication, but I figure there’s no harm in trying!

The art of accepting help

Yesterday I saw a young kid break his arm. The difference between his attitude, and his father’s attitude, demonstrated to me a very valuable lesson in humility and the art of accepting help.

I was following Michael down a mountain bike trail in Hinterglemm, Austria. It’s summer time here, and in the winter these slopes become ski hills. So you can use the chairlifts to head up the mountain, and concentrate on the fun, fast descent back down.

Ahead of Michael I could see a kid who looked to be in his early teens. We gradually caught up with him and were following reasonably close down the trail. It was my first time down this trail, so I felt a slight pang of relief when I saw Michael stopping ahead of me and I decided to stop before I hit the large banked wooden berm, which dropped down into a slightly loose section of track. Phew, I thought – I can walk it without feeling guilty!

Check out about 3.40 into this video – that’s the spot: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RBqlphQi0tI

However I soon realised he’d stopped because the rider in front of him had gone down. It looked like a fairly minor stack into some nice soft foliage, but it quickly became apparent that the boy was hurt. We lifted his bike off him and could fairly quickly guess that his arm was broken.

He was talking in what I guessed was German, and as we talked back to him he quickly realised we were speaking English and switched to our language. After we got his bike off him, and in between grunts and cries of pain and shock, he kept saying “Thank you for helping me, thank you”. I realised that he was no more than twelve, possibly younger, and was not coping well with the pain of the injury.

We looked down the track and saw a middle-aged man who had stopped. I took a guess, and yelled, “Your child?? Kind??” (Thanks to the world of Kinder Surprise, I could take a stab at the German for “child”!). He soon started walking back up the track, and helped us lift his boy out of the way of other riders. We talked and realised that his wife, a doctor, was following them down the trail and should be there soon to take a look. However the swelling and apparent bend in his forearm made it pretty clear what had happened.

By the time his mother arrived, several people had stopped to check everything was ok and to ask if they could assist. The poor kid was in pain and making a fair bit of noise – as one would do when they snap their forearm.

So we now had one child in a lot of pain and shock, one mother supporting him (because it was very apparent he was going to have a hard time walking down the uneven, steep track from here), and one father. Each had a bike, so that meant three bikes to get down the hill, and only the father to walk them down. I don’t care how good your bike skills are, or how strong you are, but walking three mountain bikes down a trail is pretty much impossible. 

Michael and I offered to take some of the bikes down the hill (we could each have walked two, and everyone could have headed down quickly). The father replied, “No, it’s ok. I can take them”. I offered again, saying “3 bikes! That’s a lot, are you sure? We really don’t mind”, but he was adamant. Perhaps he didn’t want to impose, but either way he chose not to accept the help. He also declined the offers of other riders who stopped and offered to call for help, or to ride down and get someone to come up and assist.

So eventually we decided to leave them to it, as it was apparent we could do no more. As we left, the child, who was now down to barely a whine, said again “Thank you for your help”. And away we went.

We rode to the bottom of the mountain, which was still a fair way yet. We then got in the cable car and went back up to the top, and began the run back down again. It was at least an hour after the crash when we reached the spot where the boy had gone down. To my dismay, the child and his mum were still sitting on the side of the track, with two mountain bikes.

I pulled over to check in and see how he was doing. By this stage he wasn’t talking at all, and he looked pretty worn out, pale and uncomfortable. His mum was cradling him and looking pretty worn out herself.

She explained that her husband had decided to ride down (obviously having determined that walking three bikes was not going to happen), was going to find the boys older brother, have him walk back up the mountain and then the father and the older brother could ride the other two bikes back down, while mum and the injured child walked down the mountain. I could see that mum didn’t think this was such a marvelous plan, while her child lay injured on the side of the track.

While the delay may not have had any serious consequences on the child’s treatment or recovery, it was clearly not a pleasant situation and one that could have been lessened by simply accepting some help. I know if I had been that child, I would want to be anywhere except lying on the side of the track, while so many people had offered their assistance to get me out of their much quicker. I would feel a little frustrated that my father had been so quick to decline any assistance and had felt the need to do it all himself.

It made me wonder at the almost instinctive reaction we as humans can have to decline help, particularly from strangers. What is it that makes us feel we cannot ‘impose’ on others, when we clearly have some level of need and others have offered their assistance. In fact in many cases, people really want to help and the greater level of good and satisfaction would be achieved by accepting the proffered help.

I had this very conversation with a friend who was going through her first pregnancy. It was a tough journey for her, with severe morning sickness and fatigue that prevented her from doing much for many months. She said she found it hard to accept help from people, but soon came to realise that people wanted to help, and that it truly was no imposition. In fact, by accepting the help, she gave those people an opportunity to do their ‘good deed’ and to experience the joy that comes with reaching out to another.

I believe that accepting help is an art. It can be difficult to see our own vulnerability and need, particularly when reflected to us from another person. However it we acknowledge that assistance almost always comes from a good place in the other person, and that we can in fact do them a service by accepting their help, then perhaps we will be more likely to humble ourselves and partake of their generosity.

“Ethical consumer”?

At Room to Read Chapter events, we encourage volunteers to wear a branded t-shirt – it makes them easily identifiable and if they choose to buy it and take it home, is helping spread the brand through their neighbourhood. The small supply of tees we have were produced a while back by a volunteer down south. They sourced some nice cheap black tees and had them screenprinted with Room to Read logos. They are available to volunteers to purchase at a small cost so no costs are borne by the organisation.

I wore mine for many months before even noticing that they were not fair trade. It’s not like they come with a big label saying “made with exploitation” – in fact, they just came with a discrete tag inside and it was only through checking out the manufacturer’s website that I can merely make the assumption they are not fair trade – it seems to be a bit trendy to declare your fair trade credentials, so on the assumption this website used radio-silence as a tactic, I’m going to assume they’re not, or certainly can’t assure me that they are.

As soon as I raised this, all the involved volunteers agreed that our tees needed to be fair trade. Though Room to Read is focused on education for children, it seemed obvious to us all that our words needed to match our actions. Yes, as volunteers we want to avoid excessive costs so that we can maximise fundraising – but when it comes to a relatively cheap item like a tshirt, we decided it was worth a few dollars more (some quick internet research shows you can get ethical tees, custom printed, coming in at under $15 each easy).

It’s not surprising this ‘slipped through the cracks’. In a consumerist society, it feels like each and every action we take has global repercussions, and so we are constantly pulled between making the ‘right and ethical’ choice, and making the quick, cheap, convenient, easier choice.

Not to mention what type of ‘ethical’ choice we make. I found one tshirt manufacturer that is Fairtrade certified, another WRAP certified, and of course many profess to utilise organic materials. Do I want a tshirt made from organic cotton, manufactured in a small eco-friendly set-up in Byron? Or from a co-op of industrious women in Bangladesh working in good conditions?

The classic “good consumer” battle I face every week is eggs. Have you seen the amount of choice available when you go to buy eggs? Do I want free range, or cage-free but ethically treated and grain fed? What about organic eggs? Or perhaps the “environmental egg” (the egg that is good for the planet….), or eggs enriched with Omega-3 from hens fed organically-grown flaxseed? Do I give up the weekly battle and have my own chooks in the backyard?? (well, if I had a backyard…). This is obviously becoming trendy, as you can even rent your own chickens – a sort of ‘try before you buy’ experience!

I feel a little chuffed every time I remember to take my gorgeous Keep Cup (one of the best gifts ever!) to the coffee shop, doing my bit to minimise waste. But then I realise I don’t know anything about the coffee – where it comes from, what labour has gone into producing it, and how much the producers are paid. A fellow student raised a good question in a recent lecture – would we be prepared to pay $20 for a coffee, if that’s what it cost to produce ethically? (the coffee, the milk – oh goodness don’t get me started on the milk….).

For tea drinkers (yup, that’s me), the questions are still there. Recently I visited Darjeeling in India, renowned throughout the world for its tea. There I learned that the women who pluck the tea leaves, almost exclusively contract workers (i.e. no holidays/sick leave/job security) are required to pick 24kg of tea leaves per day to earn their $1.50.

Do you have any idea where your tea comes from? And how it was produced? Until recently, I’d never given it much thought. But after having visited communities that depend on this industry, I’ve become acutely aware of the exploitation that occurs.

As an aside, you want to make sure you boil your tea for a good long while…. wandering through a tea factory on an impromptu tour, I realised the health and safety standards a wee bit lax. I walked through quite a lot of tea that was sitting in piles on the floor ready to be packaged up and sold 🙂

How much of our consumption depends on production practices that are less than satisfactory? What is satisfactory? By what standards? How do we make choices on competing ethical grounds?

I frequently buy clothes and all sorts of food and other products and have no idea about the chain of production. Sometimes, it feels more convenient not to know – it’s easier to pop down to Coles and just buy whatever I need, than trooping around to various markets, butchers, bakers and so forth to get all the required bits and pieces (everything from food to washing powders). I forget my green bags and just opt for plastic, to avoid buying any more reusable bags. I buy whatever coffee is available (if it tastes good), I drive when I ‘need’ to, and I have definitely been guilty of excessively long showers on a ‘cold’ Queensland winter morning.

I recently came across this phrase, “small x many = big” from Paul Bennett. The idea being that lots of small changes can amount to big changes across the world. It is this mindset that motivates consumers to buy fair trade and to seek out ethical alternatives. But is it enough? Is it enough to pay a bit extra for “green electricity”, rather than critically examining our culture of energy consumption? To “carbon offset” our flights, rather than looking at the rapid-fire pace of our lifestyles?

I don’t have the answers but it’s a subject that many have explored in different ways. I’d love to know how others wade through the ethical minefield that is the modern-day existence in a globalised world.

And another aside – Fairtrade Fortnight starts on 7 May 2011. Not a bad time to get amongst it 🙂

My experience of leadership as service

I was recently reminded of the notion of ‘servant leadership’ as it exists within Christian theology – the classic imagery being the way Jesus washed his disciples’ feet – and have since felt challenged to relate this notion to my own personal experience of leadership. I’ve been fascinated by the thought that leadership, in its many forms, can most effectively be an exercise in service.

The idea came up as I discussed the role of the youth group in our church. The girl I was chatting with remarked that the key role of a youth group ‘leader’ was in essence to be a servant to the kids. She didn’t elaborate, feeling I understood the Christian notion of leadership as service; but I would add that this service is built up in practice by the leaders doing everything from actually serving (i.e. dinner!) to educating the kids, shaping youth group sessions to suit their requirements/desires, and sharing the Gospel message with them.

The youth group leader role is clearly largely facilitative – it is a role that enables the young people to come together, looks after logistics, provides direction to their study and time together. In that sense it’s fairly simple to see how, even outside a Christian framing, it is an act of ‘service’.

The question for me is whether leaders can effectively act out of a desire to serve in another context?

First stop – Google. If you look for “leadership as service” you tend to pull up a lot of school programs where students are taught to be “leaders” (i.e. ‘well rounded individuals’) through “service” (some community-based activity) – ‘building leadership through service’. What I am thinking more is how leadership is an act of service. To find this sort of material via Google, you need to add the word “humility” to the search – you then get a lot more results that are focused on the idea of leaders serving (also predominantly Christian literature, ‘humility’ being a word that appears frequently in this discourse).

So armed with the focal point of humble leaders and how they serve in that role, time for the second stop – some personal reflection. I considered my role in Room to Read. For the last 18 months, I’ve been working to establish the Brisbane Chapter of Room to Read – a framework within which volunteers in cities around the world can contribute to the work of the organisation, primarily by conducting fundraising activities. It’s taken a lot of tacking back and forth, changes in direction and strategy, but finally I think we have an organisation into which can be built some sustainability (for me, this is the ultimate win!).

From very early, I became the unofficial “Chapter Leader” – largely out of my initiation of our first meetings. Interestingly when I went along to our very first meeting (me + 4 others I had never met but connected with via email), I had intended to act largely as a facilitator – to connect, to initiate connections, and to stay vaguely involved – I had not intended to walk away with an event mapped out and half-organised, and a Chapter in the making.

I realised that this, perhaps, was the beginning of my ‘servant leadership’ in Room to Read. Actually taking a key driving role was not on my agenda – I came along with an intention to help others to fulfil their desire to contribute. My motivation was outwardly-focused, centred on helping others to engage and ultimately to support Room to Read, which fits so perfectly within their Chapter model. I feel that this motivation has remained with me ever since.

There is obviously the element of service that comes from volunteering your time to support an organisation that provides education to those who would otherwise go without. I see this as the school model – building leaders through service. But I see my leadership role as being guided more by my desire to provide opportunities for others to engage with an issue that matters to them.

It would be untrue to suggest that I’ve never considered how my role in Room to Read may benefit me in the long run – the experience gained, the connections made and so on. An ongoing challenge for me is distinguishing myself from the Chapter -there is a perception that I am Room to Read in Brisbane and maintaining humility while also appreciating the sentiment people show can be difficult. Room to Read has done many things for me – I recently had the opportunity to spend 5 days in India visiting Room to Read projects, which is an experience I won’t soon forget. Room to Read was in part the impetus for me to leave a career in the corporate world to pursue something far more meaningful – and for this, I will be forever grateful. I only hope that in leading the Brisbane group I can provide similar meaningful opportunities to others.

I recently had a potential volunteer come to me who ‘confessed’ that despite being in her mid-30s she had never volunteered. I assured her she was not alone! She has proven already that she is an incredibly capable, willing and good-hearted person who was just looking for the right opportunity. The Chapter provided that and I see establishing that framework as a type of service.

There is a third stop in this line of thinking – which I want to explore further during this year. If I am truly trying to be a leader that serves, how do I translate this into action in my role? How does it shape interactions with the team? How does it impact my thinking on empowerment, trust, delegation, succession, training? How do I embody humility in my role as a leader? Can I still be an effective leader (in the sense of raising money, achieving the other goals for Room to Read) in this capacity? Many questions for another post!

I’m interested to know of other situations where you see leadership as service – and in particular how this plays out in practice. Because I believe that, in respect to Room to Read, my success as a leader depends in great part on my ability to be humble, to put the needs of the team first (which requires first knowing what their needs and desires are) and to stay focused on my central motivation. No small challenge, on which I’ll be sure to report again!