“Leaders are not born they are awakened! They are the ones who act when their time is called and do what they know in their heart they must do; they follow their calling.”
Journal entry, June 22, 2010
As if waking from a long dream where I had forgotten where I was, I awoke one morning to find myself in a land far from my own. I was in Chitwan, Nepal, a place where people acknowledge each other with a bow of their heads in sacred recognition, “Namaste,” (the divine in me recognizes the divine in you). Never before had I witnessed such a culture. Poor by Western standards, the families I lived with earned less than $2/day, yet by their standards, they possessed a kind of wealth we in the West might long to have. They had the richness of trust, mutual support, compassion and respect for their fellow community. They shared and supported one another, greeted each other by name, and looked out for the well-being of their neighbors.
One day late in the afternoon, just as the day’s heat was beginning to wane, a very thin, older man made a turn from the main road to walk the path toward our house. Draped in a traditional Indian Dhoti that exposed one shoulder, he was carrying a sack with one hand while leaning on a large walking stick gripped by the other. It was obvious he was a stranger to the family and by the looks of it very poor and hungry. Because I had never seen him before, I assumed he was a traveler, making his way across the country on some sort of Hindi pilgrimage. As he approached, he was confronted by the stern and focused Nepali woman of the
house who didn’t seem to have time in her busy day for the welfare of strangers. To my surprise the man was welcomed with a smile and undivided attention. She offered him food, water and anything else he might need. His needs were small and he accepted the donations with gratitude. As soon as he came, he was gone. She went back to her work as if there had been no interruption, but for me that moment still lingers on.
Seeing things from the perspective of others has been undervalued in my culture. However, as I traveled to different
parts of the world, I can say with certainty, it is very important. Not only does it help us understand why other people are the way they are, it also reveals elements of our own potential that we might otherwise overlook. Transformation occurs as we awaken to the unknown; as I ventured on a journey beyond the shores of my cultural security, I was awakened to an approach to life I never knew existed. Witnessing the interaction that warm day in Nepal, I realize now, I was seeing for the first time within the context of my life, my existence as an American, my values and my assumptions. I had accepted certain things to be “human nature,” such as violence, depravity and domination by the strong over the weak, however, if these actions are our nature, they are not our greatest potential and instead elements of our nature to which there is an opposite, equivalent nature.
Throughout my journey I was exposed to several examples of transformational social change. In China, students and future leaders discuss new potentials of globalization, envisioning futuristic innovations and intelligent development systems that not only incorporate ancient wisdom, but transcend and include them with new understandings of sustainability and ecological harmony between humanity and nature. In South Africa, residual power from the Truth and Reconciliation process, which paved a new road in conflict resolution and community organization, continues to support South Africans’ dreams and the work they inspire. Education
and literacy programs, domestic violence and HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns and many other local initiatives work
together toward the fulfillment of the democratic promise: social equality, economic prosperity and human rights. The story is the same in Guatemala, where dozens of NGOs’ like Los Patojos (The Little Ones) are stepping up to do what they can to share the societal load. These organizations, dedicated to change, have opened educational centers, women’s empowerment programs and other unconventional community partnerships. They help thousands of local people receive quality education, free nutrition, medical services and provide the motivation needed to become “social change agents” working for a better future. Circumstances differed along every part of my journey, yet common to it all was the commitment of individuals and communities toward collaborative and creative social enrichment.
Inspired individuals worldwide are changing the world for the better. Sustainable development requires working
together, thinking differently about our challenges and using them as opportunities to propel us in a new direction. The dedicated people I have met along my journey are transformational leaders. They are the ones with the courage and commitment to follow their faith and to take action for the benefit of all people. They demonstrate that leadership is not an individualized activity, but is done in community
and cooperation with ethical standards that translate in every language, culture, and country.
My journey has taught me that each of us is a leader on a voyage of self-growth and discovery. I can envision a world that works for everyone; a world where each person can reach their greatest potential.
Leaders with vision are needed now more than ever to move society toward a new partnership paradigm. Some are calling our time the “movement of all movements,” and a worldwide shift in interconnected consciousness is opening our eyes to the realization of our true potential. Each of us has the creative power to make the world a better place. The time is NOW! Namaste!