“Every person must decide, at some point, whether they will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness. This is the judgment. Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” – Martin Luther King Jr.
The Scary Unknown of the First Day
Trailblazing. Pivoting. Initiating change.
Doing something that’s not been done before can be scary, difficult and maybe even feel impossible. But, when there are people supporting us as we trail blaze, pivot or initiate: The unlikely becomes the inevitable.
I was reminded of this last week when a gentleman asked a simple question and received a surprising answer. Let me explain.
During the question and answer section of my presentation, he asked how classmates of mine treated me when I returned to school after being burned. I had left school on a January afternoon as a “normal” kid and returned 15 months later in a wheelchair, covered in scars, without fingers and “different” than everybody else.
I thanked him for the question and shared what happened that first day back after five months in the hospital followed by 10 months of therapy and homeschool.
First days are always hard. After all that had changed, I was super apprehensive about my return. The class-clown and little athlete my classmates knew, had been radically transformed. I knew it, they were about to see it, and I was scared about their reaction to it. As we neared the school, I leaned over and told my mom I wasn’t going; just wasn’t up to it.
Although she reassured me that everything was going to be okay, secretly she wondered how my classmates would react, too.
We both were about to find out.
As we made the final turn and ventured toward the school, we noticed kids lining the road on both sides. They held handmade posters, waved eagerly with beaming smiles and welcomed back their fellow schoolmate. The welcome didn’t stop there – children from every class in the school also lined the drive, parking lot and halls all the way to my 5th-grade classroom.
They wanted to let me know that although I might be a little different, I was welcome. I wasn’t being rejected but cheered back into school like a hero. My apprehension was replaced with acceptance and love. The acceptance on that first day back changed my entire life.
(Contrast this remarkable welcoming, unity and love with the spectacular, sad and courageous story of Carlotta LaNier. The youngest of the Little Rock Nine, in 1957 she faced a very different welcome into her school as she and eight other teens became the first black students to attend a previously segregated school district. I had the honor of spending time with her recently on the Live Inspired Podcast where she shared her harrowing story. You’ll be deeply moved by her conviction, forgiveness and life. Check it out here.)
The Way You Treat Others Impacts Everything
But what does the reception of a little kid at school have to do with you, your work, your family and life?
We all experience first days. The first day we accept a new job, consider a new place of worship, move into a new neighborhood or walk into a party. And we experience the first days of others.
Are you lining the street making sure others feel welcome in your community? Or do you have too little time and not enough interest?
It turns out the manner in which you treat others won’t just impact them, it also transforms the culture of a school, a hospital, an organization and an entire community.
This is your day to step away from the darkness of destructive selfishness and walk in the light of creative altruism.
This is your day. Live Inspired.