You are a leader. What are you standing for?
I really try to plan everything. I am one of those people who love having every detail planned out before take any action. In fact my coach has trained me to plan every moment of my day so I actually get stuff done. It’s a good policy really but today,
I really couldn’t have planned this…
As I am on my way home from a client in Jackson Heights Queens, I saw a guy laying right in front of the steps to the train. He clearly wasn’t conscious. I saw a young woman on the phone. She was calling an ambulance as people passed. You could see the disgust on people’s faces as they passed. Apparently, he’s here just about everyday. The locals were clearly annoyed that we gave this guy attention.
I could do CPR in my sleep.
I knelt down beside him. For years I used to teach CPR classes so I knew what to do if something was really wrong with him. I rolled him on his side. He was drooling and totally unresponsive. Just in case you were wondering, that’s a life threatening condition according to the book. The unresponsive part, not the drooling part. I could smell on his breath why he was unconscious.
She was right to call 911 though
…and I was going to stand by her leadership in doing the right thing. In New York it’s really easy to bypass the drunken bodies strewn about and as time passed the looks kept coming of the skeptical and annoyed. Weird that that both me and the young lady were concerned about this gentleman’s wellbeing. What’s worse is it became clear to both of us that nothing would come of our effort. I started to see the scenario play out in my head. The ambulance would come, they would probably take him to the hospital where best case, he would stay till he was sober. Worst case he would leave. But in all cases he would probably end up drunk again another day on the same subway steps.
That wasn’t going to stop us though. We were standing for something.
We waited what felt like forever for an ambulance to arrive. He became sort of conscious talking jibberish. We learned his name, he eventually gave up the vodka bottle in this pocket and would answer questions. He had beautiful eyes. I looked right at him and tried really hard to make him feel heard. In my mind I thought he might not actually remember this all took place but perhaps deep down he would know that people in general care about him. At some point he started to cry.
“You actually care about me?”, he asked.
“Of course. We both do.” He cried again.
At some point he asked me to marry him. He also asked me to convert to his religion. Many weirder things started to come out of him mouth to which me and the young lady just looked at each other and wished the ambulance would hurry. It certainly amused all the gawkers around.
The young lady was a true leader!
A store owner eventually came to us saying this was his way of getting attention and he didn’t deserve a second thought. The young lady was ready with her most powerful voice. She was really interested in going to med school. She was sweet and passionate about protecting this man. I saw fire come out of her as she responded to the store owner. “Even if that’s true that doesn’t mean he doesn’t need help. He needs help!” She was determined to get this man better with the only thing she knew how to do in that moment… stand and wait for an ambulance.
We looked at each other heartbroken because we we went back to the thoughts of the future of this man. Would he get help he clearly desperately needed to get his life together? What was his life like that he had to run to the bottle?
After 40 minutes the ambulance did finally come. The guy went from passed out to laughing to crying to angry to violent to apologetic to defiant. I could see the frustration in the paramedics. Even if it wasn’t specifically this guy, they’ve done this call hundreds of times. “These people cared enough about you to call us.” They said to him. “Why would you do this to yourself?”
Medics said we could go
…which meant “leave now”. I gave my card to the sweet girl I waited with and I went on my way thinking about what I can do to make this planet a better place for my future doctor friend and the man who can only find joy in a bottle.
The dictionary says
1. the action of leading a group of people or an organization.
Sometimes we have it in our mind that leadership is supposed to look a certain way. It’s the guy who is the loudest, it’s the woman giving the orders, it’s the one with the suit…
Leadership isn’t defined by those things. It’s the one who stands for something and takes action on it inspiring others to follow. This young woman lead all of us around her to think differently and to take care of those around us.
The shop owner who came out to tell us not to bother got his face handed to him by a young 20 something because of her stand. Her stand was that everyone gets to be taken care of, no matter what. She didn’t need to scream it into a bull horn, she didn’t need to be in front of big crowd, or wear a suit on tv. She didn’t even say her stand out loud! Instead she lived it for all of us to be inspired by. Whether people left indifferent or not it didn’t matter because she knew she was doing the right thing.
Leadership is showing up powerfully connected to our stand
After that encounter, I started to look at myself differently. I saw where I was being selfish and where I was standing for my purpose. I got present to the difference in my power. How the young woman showed up so powerfully and how we should show up like that everywhere in our own lives. Circumstances shouldn’t determine how strong my stand is but sometimes it does. My stand is that everyone gets to have a life they are excited about in a body they love. In being with the young woman, I got to express my stand too. In everything I do and in everywhere I go I get to express my stand. Not by being the loudest, not by giving orders and certainly not just wearing a suit on tv.
It’s what you do in the shadows and not just what you do in the light that determines who you are!