I spend a lot of time writing papers for school. Some of them wouldn’t be interesting to share on my blog, but I believe that some are. This week I had to write a quick reflection on a moment in our lives that began developing our leadership skills. This is what I shared:
As we discussed in class last week, we were supposed to pick a time in our lives that had an impact on us and helped develop our leadership qualities. As I thought back over my life, I remembered small but significant experiences that made a difference in my life. This is the first meaningful one I can remember.
I was young, probably eight years old. I went to McDonalds with my dad to get a Happy Meal. This didn’t happen very often and so I was extremely excited! I remember watching my dad leave the car to run in to get the food. On the way in, he smiled at a lady and talked to her for a minute. I wondered who the woman was because I didn’t recognize her. After I waited in the car for what seemed like forever, I saw my dad emerging from the beautiful doors with the golden “M.” I could hardly contain my excitement!
When he jumped into the car, I asked him who the woman was. He told me that he didn’t know. I asked him why he was talking to her if he didn’t know who she was. He said, “Janae, I don’t know who she was but she’ll spend all day trying to figure out who I am.Did you see how happy she was to have have someone say hi to her? You don’t need to know someone to smile and say ‘hello’ and she will have a better day because someone took the time to talk to her.”
It was a simple message that hit me to the core, even at such a young age. This wasn’t the only time I remember my dad doing this. He talked to strangers everywhere he went, always. Sometimes, as I got a little older, I remember feeling embarrassed that he would do such a thing. He looked silly, from my perspective, and sometimes I had to hide my face while he had seemingly meaningless conversations.
As I got even older, I remember my dad being a principal at a junior high and then a high school. On special occasions I’d get the chance to go to work with him. It was always so fun to watch him pull out a big wad of keys for the building, and I loved that he could get us access to any room in the high school. We would swim, go ice skating, “help” in his office and even sometimes go to dances. He walked faster than I could ever keep up with, and so I learned to run/walk beside him. But everywhere we went and no matter who we saw, he always waved hi and smiled. He took particular interest in each person, even if they looked very uncomfortable. And because of this, he was loved.
Everyone spoke highly of my dad because he took the time to invest in them, if only for a moment. He genuinely cared for the general well-being of people, and I could feel it. As I grew, he’d remind me of this simple truth, that if I would say hi and smile, I would always have friends. And he was right. I have always had friends from all sorts of backgrounds. I genuinely love people and I appreciate their journeys. They don’t have to be like me for me to love them. Some people would say this is unsafe or naive, but I’ve chosen to live this way instead of inside a hard outer shell of safety. Maybe this is where my “Woo” comes from on the very top five “Strengths Finder” test. I’m sure I was born with a tendency to be this way, but watching my dad understand the implications of human nature really helped me to further develop this skill.