Leading By Example

I was walking on a Friday night in a busy stretch of Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, and ended up waiting at a crosswalk next to a man with two very young children. As we waited, a number of other pedestrians decided to cross the street without waiting for the signal to change. Seeing this, one of the man’s children asked his father, “Why don’t we just cross?” The man replied that they needed to wait for the light to change. The boy countered, “Then why are those people crossing?” The father struggled to offer an explanation. As he did so, another pedestrian crossed towards us, smiling sheepishly and apologizing as he noticed the conversation. The man explained to his son that kids always need to wait for the signal, but sometimes adults can cross if they look both ways and know that there aren’t any cars. The boy wasn’t swayed. When we finally did cross, we again found ourselves waiting at yet another crosswalk. The boy huffed, “Oh, let’s just cross!”

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That boy learned more from watching the behavior of adults than from his dad’s explanation of the “rules.” This incident caused me to reflect on the fact that we are always, intentionally or not, role models to others, especially children. This is a powerful realization for the way in which we live our lives. We may talk often about compassion, concern for people in need, and truly joining together with all people as human beings, but people do not follow words. Words merely explain our actions, which stand as true examples that we set for others to follow. As James Baldwin once wrote, “Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.”

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With that in mind, I would like to thank Mike Kocharhook and Lindsay Leeder for sharing their mission experience with the Maryknoll Affiliates in Seattle this past Saturday. Mike and Lindsay are a husband and wife – him a contractor and her a nurse practitioner – who recently completed mission work in Kenya, helping to repair and run a medical clinic and a school. It was especially inspiring to hear them tell of the ways that they worked with the local people to develop sustainable building and medical practices, so that the people with whom they were working could continue providing these services to their community long after Mike and Lindsay had left.

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Mike and Lindsay are just some of the many examples of people leading by doing in mission. We appreciate them sharing their experience with us, so that we may be inspired and renewed in our own call to service. Theirs is an example that we would all be blessed to imitate.

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