“The First Step of Leadership is ‘Showing up.'”
When I saw this on my friend’s post, I bristled a bit.
It sounded far too simple for my ears, which like to hang on to every vowel and consonant in a cesspool of words.
But when things make me bristle, like our cat growling at the boys, I sit up and take notice. Because the winds of change have blown and it just got cold in the room. Or was that the fever talking?
We have been going through a season of “really tough” here in the Lin household.
Our entire family has been sick with indiscriminate chest colds and whatnot for about six weeks. And we haven’t really gotten over one thing when we’re hit with one more.
Today’s joyous surprise was Hand-Foot-Mouth disease.
I was about to unload TJ out of the car to go to preschool when he said, “Mom, my hands are itchy. The mosquitos got me.”
He mentioned that earlier in the morning, but like most busy parents I just said “Sorry bud!,” and kept making the lunches and doing the things and getting the people out the door to their destinations.
But when I unhooked his car seat at preschool, I took one look at this poor boy with his blistered hands. And then I looked at his face. Blisters now appearing around his little mouth, his chin knotted up in the cutest petulant pout. Even when TJ is sick, he’ll charm the pants right off you.
I shut the car door, informed the preschool of the “situation” and made the trip home. On the way home I thought of the plans Dave and I would have to one again cancel for an event… this time his birthday. A dark cloud paused over my head as I got angry thinking about the fact that we hadn’t been out for a legitimate date by ourselves in over a year.
As a planner I thought about “I wonder what the timeline will be for all the kids to get it and what the implications will be for them missing school, etc.”
There were so many days these past few weeks where both Dave and I legitimately looked at each other and said out loud, “This feels too hard,” and “I *really* don’t want to do this day.”
And we weren’t joking either. We were serious. Our bodies were so tired. And we were taking care of a sick family.
I don’t normally write such bleak subject matter, but hang with me. I promise you there’s hope. There’s always hope and humor because… Jesus. And maybe you’re here at this very place. Maybe you’re where we are. The struggle is not just “real–” it’s so real it’s painful.
When you’re at such a bleak place and each parent is struggling to just remain vertical, how do you keep from crossing over into the “mean,” into the “bitter?”
I lost a friend this week. He was a college friend and I had followed his family through the years. He was an exemplary human being and a dad and husband for the history books. He was the type of person who always made you feel good about… being you. A rare quality by today’s standards.
Was he rich? Maybe. I don’t know his true financial position, but it may not have been with money. He was FILTHY RICH with his family and friends. Five beautiful children and a wife who adored him. One of our friends said “Their love story was one for the ages…” Everyone who knew them knew that was a factual statement, not an opinion. I watched them fall in love in college.
Mark was a leader. In the true sense of the word. He humbly led his church even when things were hard. He led his family in the small things. Caroline said he would head up the morning routine by making the crew breakfast and getting her coffee and just being cheerful and kind. Because that’s who he was.
God bless those morning people.
Very very recently, we lost Mark. He slipped away in an auto accident. We are all mourning but especially his wife and family.
“Thank you for showing up.”
“Thanks for cleaning up the puke. You’re awesome.”
“Thanks for pushing through and reading the bedtime story, I could see the kids were so happy to see you.”
“Thanks for getting me more Nyquil so I can keep on keepin’ on.”
Now the little leadership quote about “showing up” didn’t seem so crazy after all. That was literally all we could do for our family and each other the past few weeks. Just show up.
No extras. Few stories, no real cooking. No “fun” stuff. No outings. Crawling into bed. Minute-by-minute. Exchanging “the look” with your spouse as you realize the only comfort they can provide is having someone else to sit with in misery.
It’s been a season of difficulties, sickness and loss (both in our family and among friends). And when we are close to the end, there is not… nothingness. There is another willing to sit with us in our misery and provide infinitely more comfort than even a spouse is able to give. Our precious Savior is waiting with open arms, ready to comfort us and encourage us in this hard, hard journey called life.
Truth be told, he’s ALWAYS there, but extreme difficulty has a way of putting things in sharp perspective for us, doesn’t it?
The first step of leadership is showing up.
When we are at the end of ourselves and showing up is all we can do, Caroline Simmons (Mark’s wife) summed it up perfectly. Please let her words wrap around you like the healing garment they are:
“This man was the love of my life. I miss him agonizingly. I have not even begun to allow myself to imagine what my family’s future is going to look like without him, because it’s more than I can bear at this time. But I wanted to let you all know that I am not destroyed.
To mourn now as though I have nothing left inside me to carry me on would be to totally deny the incredible value of everything that Mark poured into me and the power of the God that gave him to me. Mark and I shared a lifetime worth of love in only 21 years and anyone who knew him can easily understand how that is possible.
He loved lavishly, without reservation. His love was pure and intense, as if concentrated. It was uncomfortable for many people, because we aren’t accustomed to that kind of uninhibited, imposing love, but in truth, it’s exactly how Christ loved and what we should all strive for.”
If the first step of leadership is “showing up,” then the second MUST be this unbridled love that Caroline speaks of. A lavish, intense love that draws people in.
Not the Valentine’s Day love. Not the effusive compliments. Not the expensive gifts.
The showing-up kind of love.
A history-making, earth-shaking, follow-you-anywhere, make-you-coffee kind of love.