“Alright everyone,” asked Tyann, one of our 12th graders, “who wants to continue down the trail, and who wants to turn around now?” We had hiked a couple hours that morning on pretty flat ground around Lake Nockamixon, situated in a small state park in eastern Pennsylvania. We had the option of continuing another couple miles down the trail or turning around to head back to our cabins. Tyann was our “leader of the day,” a role each student took on for a portion of the trip, including responsibilities of monitoring wellbeing of the group, keeping the group on schedule and on task, and making informed decisions based on the best interest of the group. Tyann put the decision to a vote- and found that one third of the group wanted to return, while about two thirds wanted to continue on. She was part of the group that wanted to return to camp. I was curious to see what would happen.
The day prior, we spent time looking at four different leadership styles- directing, selling, consulting and engaging. Students and volunteers took a self-evaluation to see which leadership style aligned most with their personality. Directing leadership is mostly directive, Selling leadership looks to explain the reasoning behind a decision, Consulting takes others’ opinions into account before making a final call, and Engaging leaves the choice completely in the hands of the group. We had spent the prior evening talking about the pros and cons of each leadership style, and when was appropriate to use each of them.
As Tyann consulted the group on our hiking route, she decided that because of the majority wanting to continue on, that we would keep going, but we were able to come up with a compromising plan which brought us to a beautiful lakeside lunch spot that fell in between our two options. Tyann put into action what she learned about herself the day before, laying aside her personal preferences to put the group first. She acted with confidence and thoughtfulness, making the experience the best one possible for everyone involved.
Psalm 139:13-14 says, “For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother's womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well.…” Leadership takes on many forms. Each of our students were created uniquely by our loving and personal God. Anytime they can live out that uniqueness and discover the way their leadership can be a gifting to the group is a chance to reflect on the way God designed them to be. My hope is that they continue to flourish as leaders- whichever trail they decide to take.
The morning we went to the Holocaust Memorial Museum, two of our students, who also happen to be sisters, were fighting a lot with one another. You know the kind of way siblings fight? It was the kind where they are impatient with one another, and every little thing done or said annoys the other one. Then they realize it annoys the other one, so they dig in to get a greater reaction and laugh about it.
We had just arrived at the Holocaust Museum, probably one of the most somber places in DC, possibly in the whole country. I had briefed students going in about how to carry themselves with respect inside. Well, our two sisters were still caught in their world of petty sibling arguments. I told one of them to chill out and back off. I was getting fed up with them at this point. This really just made her more upset- now both at me and at her sister. The rest of the museum visit, the two avoided each other, and the one I spoke harshly to avoided me.
After walking through the museum, which still strikes me to the heart every time (even after my fifth visit) we headed to lunch to decompress a bit. The two sisters sat kind of near me towards the end of the table, along with Yasiria, a sophomore student on our Student Leadership team. I could tell they were still bickering about something, but this time I overheard Yasiria interjecting. When I listened closer, I discovered she was giving them advice on how to work through whatever argument was going on. She spent the next 20 minutes or so actually counseling them through things! And they listened!
The rest of the day, I didn't hear a single dispute between the two. I was so impressed with Yasiria; she has a heart of gold and always leads the group by example, showing compassion and kindness along the way. Earlier on our expedition, we walked through the Martin Luther King Jr. monument. On the monument walls, there was a quote that said,
"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." -MLK
I was struck by the way Yasiria handled things in that instance. She did a much better job at showing love and patience than I did! We had just walked through a memorial showing the world what happens when we let darkness and hate take the reins, but in the end, it's purpose was to show how light prevailed, and how we have a choice everyday how to respond to our world. Yasiria that day chose light, and it drove out the darkness. She chose love, and it bridged a gap between two sisters. I call that a victory.