My husband and I are members of a leadership development community called Team. Team teaches and its leaders model Christ-centered Servant Leadership. When we first joined Team from another organization, George and Jill Guzzardo and Chris Brady modeled Servant Leadership in the way they welcomed us to the Team. They showed us acceptance and were patient with our process. They inconvenienced themselves for our good. They went beyond anything we’d asked for or expected.
Servant Leadership is particularly important is in family relationships. God established the family as the basic organization on which everyone’s happiness depends. Christ-centered leadership is sacrificial and principle-based. It is the ground on which strong families are created, and results in families that work. It is out of strong families we get strong communities and radiating out to a strong society as a whole.
One aspect of Servant Leadership is recognizing what is a big picture issue, and what is not. As parents, we often are called to sacrifice of our own desires and inconvenience ourselves for the good of others. Servant Leaders recognize when smaller issues of preference are not worth the larger issues of relationships.
Father’s Day weekend this year we had one of our granddaughters, 2 ½ year old Keyna, for the weekend. Saturday afternoon, we were in a wholesale club, trying to pick up a few things for dinner and get gas for the car.
My husband went to the pumps while Keyna, our son and I shopped. We quickly found the groceries from our list. Then we wandered the aisles, knowing my husband would take a while, because the lines at the pump were long. It was tough keeping Keyna occupied in the cart, and she was starting to get bored.
I had sent our son back to the shelves with something he’d chosen and I did not want to buy. Keyna and I waited for him in a large main aisle, by a display of charcoal. Keyna was tired of my means of distractions. Then I saw it.
“It” was a bear, sitting on the charcoal, dressed in some kind of white outfit and blue cap, designed as a Pillow Pet. I grabbed the bear and started playing a silly game with Keyna with it, successfully distracting her. In the midst of the game my husband and son rejoined us.
We tried to put the bear back, but Keyna would have none of it! “No, Nana! That’s mine!” It was then our son noticed something. That white outfit wasn’t mere clothes. It was a logo outfit, registered to the NY Yankees.
Not only did this mean the cost of the bear was almost double the average Pillow Pet for what he was wearing, it also meant trouble for us with Keyna’s parents who are Boston Red Sox fans! My husband and I cringed as our Yankees fan son laughed, thinking of the reactions of Keyna’s parents to her coming home with a Yankees bear. Eventually, the humor of the situation got to us, and I suggested we go look for the display. Surely a company smart enough to carry Yankees items would also carry Red Sox items, in our sports-mad region . . .
The display had Red Sox Pillow Pets. We distracted Keyna, removed the bear and replaced it with one wearing Red Sox colors. Keyna took one look at the Red Sox Pillow Pet, and tossed it to the floor. It was an admittedly ugly one in green, looking like that team’s monster mascot, with orange hair and a red outfit and hat. We all had to admit the Yankees bear, with its white and blue pinstripe outfit and hat, was simply much cuter!
Keyna caught sight of the Yankees bear and started hollering, “No, Nana! That’s mine!” The only thing to calm this over-tired and hungry toddler was to give back the bear and realize we were not getting out of the store without buying it.
The bear went to church with us the next day. Keyna refused to be parted from it. Later, when her parents came after her nap with little sister Ariel to celebrate Father’s Day, their upset over the bear was less than we’d anticipated. They first tried to blame its purchase on our son, but I quickly stepped in and took full responsibility, just as I had been taught by Team.
Keyna kept trying to play with the bear with her father, who refused. He kept trying to toss it across the living room to our son. Finally, I reminded him of something from when we found out they were having her, our first grandchild.
We knew when we went shopping for baby items they were having a girl, so we got them a lovely pink flowered diaper bag. He vowed never to carry it, until my best friend, Keyna’s godmother, and I reminded him that a real man wouldn’t be ashamed to carry pink for his daughter. He relented, just as he did with the bear, for the same reason. I told him to think of it as “just another pink diaper bag.” It was, I said, just a small price to pay for having daughters . . .
Pink diaper bags and Yankee bears have in our family become synonymous with the sacrifices parents and Servant Leaders in our homes make for the love of our children and grandchildren. When we become parents, our needs, our wants and our comforts are put aside for the love and care of our children. When they are babies, we give up sleep. As children get older, we give up other stuff. They become our pink diaper bags and Yankee bears, the preferences we give up for the greater good of loving and caring for our children and grandchildren.
Servant Leaders understand kids should always get boundaries, and don’t always get their way. Discipline is essential for children, and rules are meant to be enforced. Servant Leaders teach good behavior and rewarded it appropriately. They equally discipline unacceptable behavior and deal with it appropriately. However, knowing the rules and obeying them is not the goal. Raising children to be responsible, considerate and unselfish individuals is always the goal.
As Servant Leaders in our home, we learned when our children were teenagers that lines must also be drawn over issues worth fighting over, and which are not. When Keyna’s mother was a teenager, we couldn’t walk into her room without shoes, because of her messy floor. Closing the door and ignoring it (and making her live in it until she got tired of it) was a smaller issue when compared with things like showing respect, participating in needed chores, maintaining acceptable grades and being a positive member of our family. The fight over her room was less important in the raising of a productive, positive young person.
Servant Leaders understand the all-over goal of maintaining positive family relationships needs to be the standard for judgment calls in discipline issues. And when it’s not a “big rock issue,” as Steven Covey said in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, it’s just another pink diaper bag or Yankee bear. And these are just not worth the effort to fight.