Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Walk for Autism

Random observations from the Walk for Autism, by Balanced Living guest columnist Paul Sherlock . . .

On my travels to the walk:
I witnessed an interaction between a guard dog that was protecting an auto repair shop and a child in a stroller being pushed by his dad in front of the fence around the building. The dog got up and wagging his tail greeted the small child - as if to say I won’t bark at you, you are young and innocent so I won’t scare you. To me it was a moment of vulnerability and protection, the dog could have easily done what he was trained to do which is to be defensive and bark and growl at people approaching in case they might be an intruder, which may have ended up traumatizing the child, but the dog must have sensed differently and instead chose to be friendly.

At the walk:
The energy of community and love at the autism walk- people united behind a cause. The energy fed upon itself: each individual’s energy being enhanced by the positive energy from all the people around them. People from all backgrounds: political beliefs, faiths, and nationalities united behind one common cause. Committed to helping loved ones and those born. The ability to unite, to have a cause greater than our differences gives me faith that we can endure and prosper as a country and member of the global community. I am grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the walk.

After the walk:
I sat down to lunch with my family and I had a civil discourse about politics with people who don’t share my beliefs. In the past these conversations usually deteriorated into arguments since we are generally diametrically opposite in our beliefs. But what I observed today was a much more productive discourse because we were honest in the assessments of our respective candidates and their flaws. We abstained from playing politics and defending our candidate without exception simply because he is our guy. This more honest interchange of thoughts I feel helped lead to a better understanding of one another’s beliefs. We won’t change each other’s opinion but at least the honesty helped to promote greater acceptance and lessen the animosity towards one another.

And after lunch:
The idea of us being up front about the flaws of the candidate my family and I support got me to thinking about the political games most people play. This gamesmanship is the refusal to ever admit that you or your candidate is wrong. This gives you the candidate an illusion of being a decisive leader and prevents their opponent from gaining ammunition that can and will be used against them. Yet when we look back at some of the historically and universally admired leaders, it is the honesty with themselves and with others that they have about their humanness that makes them so revered. We look at the humility on display by the Dalai Lama or Mahatma Gandhi - their willingness to admit that they do not know all the answers, to the self doubt experienced by Mother Theresa and Abraham Lincoln about some of the tough choices they made in their lives, and rather than being repulsed by such struggles in a leader, we embrace them further. These leaders and those that they influenced knew they weren’t perfect and as leaders they accepted and even embraced this imperfection as part of their being; enabling people to better accept them as one of their own

Therefore I would love to see a politician in this day and time be a little more disarming, be willing to deal with the fall out of being honest about their doubts and concerns and see if people might not gravitate towards them. Leadership is not always about being decisive. Leadership is about taking stock of the situation and admitting that one is human and will make mistakes. A huge part of the charisma that is essential in leaders is that people see you not as being better than everyone else but instead that you are just like everyone else- ordinary men and women doing extraordinary things.

No comments: