Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Pass It on

Between Martin Luther King, Jr. Day yesterday, and the Presidential inauguration today, this might well be dubbed "National Leadership Week."

Most of us will never spearhead major reform movements or be elected President of the United States. Not all of us can be pastors, CEOs, or even heads of households. Are some of us then doomed to the label "always a follower, never a leader"?

Not necessarily. I believe that all of us are called to show leadership--defined as "the capacity or ability to offer guidance and direction"--from time to time. A leader can be the mother who demonstrates by example the value of frugality. A leader can be the bookstore clerk who recommends helpful titles to customers. A leader can be the lay Christian who introduces a friend to God (we even call it "leading people to Christ").

And a leader can be anyone who performs a tiny act of kindness. Besides being "led" into the realization that there are still thoughtful, caring people in the world, the recipient of such an act may be led to do the same for someone else. There are many versions, some true, of the story where someone helps out a stranger and departs with the words, "Don't worry about paying back the favor; just pass it on."

The kind stranger who disappears into the crowd may actually be a better leader than the state governor with legal authority over millions. People may obey the formal official solely out of fear, remaining thoroughly rebellious in spirit; but when people follow someone with no power to force them, they follow in their hearts as well as in their actions.

All who themselves follow the One Whose leadership was "gentle and humble in heart" (Mt. 11:29, NIV), should know how to lead others likewise.

She stood ahead of me in line--
The coffee shop was full for lunch--
Just one more face within the bunch,
Like any soul you'd pass by chance.

I hardly gave her any glance
As she departed--who knew where--
But then I heard the clerk declare,
"She paid her bill, and paid yours too.

She left this note to give to you."
These written words my eyes did see:
"Someone once did the same for me;
Please pass to someone else some time."

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