Monday, January 21, 2013

Leaders Making a Difference

I have had my share of horrible bosses, no not quite like the movie but horrible in the sense that they were unable to gain the respect of the staff which ultimately always led to their down fall. Leadership and respect are earned not appointed. Anyone can be appointed into a leadership position but true leaders, effective leaders know that being a leader is far more than being qualified on paper. Leaders have a systemic way to guide their team and allow for feedback and continue to ever evolve, always changing, always growing. A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to speak with the junior high students at Sal's school about cystic fibrosis. The sixth, seventh and eighth grade students all gathered into the gym as Shelly and Mary Ellen from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation explained what CF is to the children. Sal and I then explained what a typical day for him is. Sal showed the kids his vest and how he does his treatments. Surprisingly enough the kids had great questions and we left Sal to field them. One of Sal's peers asked, "What is the life expectancy of those with CF and don't you wish you didn't have it"? I looked at Sal and asked if he was okay to answer and he quickly looked extremely confident, as Sal often does, and nodded yes. Sal then looked out at the 150 plus students and teachers and replied, "The life expectancy for CF is 37...And no, you don't ever want to have CF but I wouldn't change it because of all the people we have been able to help". The look of panic on the children’s faces when they heard that the life expectancy was only 37 quickly turned to confusion when Sal exclaimed he would not change the fact that he has cf. As Sal's mother I couldn't help but get teary eyed at what I had just witnessed. Thankfully Shelly was there and began to explain to the kids what Sal meant by helping others and not changing his situation. Shelly explained Sal's Pals and talked about the money and awareness we have been able to create. The children began to cheer and the mood was quickly lifted as the kids realized there was hope for their friend. After we had shared with the kids all we could about cf I ended the program with this story. An old man walked up a beach littered with thousands of starfish, beached and dying after a storm. A young man was picking them up and flinging them back into the ocean. "Why do you even bother", the old man scoffed, "You’re not saving enough to make a difference". The young man picked up another starfish and sent it spinning back into the ocean. "Made a difference to that one", he said. After the story I continued to tell the kids that I realized that as parents we treat them like children but the reality is, they are. But it doesn't mean that they can't make a difference in the world they live in. Whether it be volunteering for a charity or performing a random act of kindness they can make a better place to live for themselves and others. I told the children that if they took one thing away from today’s presentation that it be, to go out and Make a Difference Every Day!
When we think of leaders we don't often think of children. But when I saw Sal up there in front of his peers answering questions no adult should answer, let alone an 11 year old I was amazed at his courage and strength. My little leader shined brightly! While I would love to take credit for Sal’s behavior I know that his courage and strength were fostered by other individuals who were intently listening in the crowd. We often forget when we send our children to school for over six hours a day that someone is leading them and guiding them. I am truly grateful that my children have had the opportunity to be surrounded by a group of educators that are dedicated to making a difference every day! Thanks especially to Mrs. Traver and the advisory group for inviting us to share our story. Our teachers lead by example and are dedicated to making our children better people and one day...our future leaders! Did I forget to mention...those future leaders raised over $1500 for cf in a weeks time, I think they are well on their way!