Silence on my part isn’t common. I generally have a great deal to say, and my words are often delivered in a constant stream of thoughts and opinions.
But I wanted to ensure I didn’t make any missteps during this conversation. I was speaking with a woman whom I admire and respect for her experience, perspective and passion for serving others. Not only that, but I knew why she was asking, and I felt the need to be cautious.
But being cautious doesn’t mean avoiding the truth, so I finally said, “people who try to elevate their own importance by misusing positions that should really be about helping others.”
The woman on the other end of the line laughed, made reference to someone we both know and the rest of the conversation was incredibly meaningful.
But our discussion has stuck with me during this long weekend: one intended to honor those who gave all they had, including their lives, for something in which they believed. Most weren’t high-ranking members of the military who received respect because of their position. Some had no option but to serve while others were following a calling. But all were soldiers, and all were important.
I can’t compare the world in which I work to that of the military. With a few exceptions, nonprofit organizations aren’t dangerous. But the work is about serving others – not about getting applause or attention or accolades. It is also a world in which I belong. After stepping away from it for just over a year, I realized it is where I do my best work.
But that doesn’t mean it is perfect.
Every day I encounter people who don’t appreciate the work or see it as less valuable than money-making businesses. But they aren’t nearly as difficult as the people who actually work in the field but don’t really understand that it is a way of life – – not just a job. And I have little tolerance for people who complain that the work is too demanding.
Here’ the deal: serving others isn’t easy.
It means we have to let go of our egos and realize that we are no more important than anyone else.
As a former boss once said: everyone who walks through the front door of our organization should be treated with the same respect – whether they are a homeless person asking for help or a potential million dollar donor. Each one is God’s child and each one deserves kind words.
I wish I could say I always follow that principle, but there are times when I have a very difficult time showing respect for colleagues who are more earnest about feeling important than they are about helping others feel important.
But on days like today, when we honor those who gave everything for others, I have to put it all in perspective.
And I remember that life isn’t intended to be easy. It is intended to be a series of lessons about how to make the world a better place. Today, families across the United States are remembering those who did just that — made sacrifices to improve the lives of others.
And the rest of us simply need to say thank you for being so important.