Today I was blessed with the opportunity to serve the homeless and those without the funds for food at the Community Kitchen in downtown Paducah. I’ve done this before but this time was different. Maybe it was all the Youth and Nonprofit Leadership (YNL) classes I’ve taken at Murray State or how God has grown me, but something caused me to look at the entire experience through different lenses.
I primarily noticed my sister. She is the manager of the kitchen and was the head honcho today, directing everyone and making sure all the preparations were in order before opening the doors and she was the one who prayed over the workers, the people coming for what might be their only meal today, and the entire kitchen.
When she’s at the kitchen my sister is in her element. It combines her love for cooking, organization and most importantly her love for God which overflows into a love for people, perfectly. I love watching God use her in her role there and today was no exception. I noticed a lot about her today and her leadership capabilities and it taught me quite a few things. Going back to my YNL classes, I believe I’m learning more about leadership at this point in my life than ever before and today it was not professors at a university who taught me about leading, but my very own sister.
Here are some things I noticed today:
- A leader doesn’t do what’s easiest, but what’s best.
- After working tirelessly for five hours preparing and serving, my sister and the other volunteers closed up the kitchen and had packed all the traditional Thanksgiving dinner leftovers up and into the refrigerator when a man, a regular attender of the kitchen, drove up on his bicycle. My sister immediately dropped all the cleaning projects she was directing to fix this elderly man a plate of food so he could have a hot meal on Thanksgiving. She and a few other people got the big pans of food out and began placing heaping spoonfuls of food on a plate too small to hold everything. Even though it would have been easier to turn him away than go to all the trouble of getting everything out of the refrigerator and dirtying up spoons, that was never an option for my sister.
- A leader doesn’t lead only on special occasions.
- My sister doesn’t just serve at the kitchen Thanksgiving and Christmas, when lots of people “get their service on,” she serves and leads at the kitchen all year round. Leaders don’t just lead when others are doing so or when it’s convenient for them, leaders lead.
- A leader sees a need and fills it.
- Leaders are continually looking for ways to meet the needs of people around them. My sister recognizes there is always something to do and she has a mindset of filling the needs of others to the best of her ability.
- A leader leaves room for compassion.
- An effective leader does not always go 100 percent by the book because rules are not the most important thing to them – the person they are serving is the real focus of their energy. My sister sets the example at the kitchen of serving the person and caring more about them than following the rules to the letter (she does nothing immoral or illegal, we’re talking about giving seconds to people when they technically aren’t supposed to or giving them an extra roll when they are only supposed to give them one).
- A leader remembers.
- They are not only able to stay on task and help others to do so, leaders -effective leaders- are also able to remember the kinds of details that make others around them feel valued and loved. My sister serves hundreds of people at the kitchen each week yet remembers almost each of their names and can engage them in conversations about their past. Her ability to recall such important information regarding the people who come to eat as well as her staff of volunteers proves her genuine love and care for each of them.
My sister taught me so much today and I’m so thankful for her (appropriate since it’s Thanksgiving) and her directional leadership, a contrast to my relational personality. However, she teaches me that it’s OK, and sometimes more helpful, to blend the two.
Happy Thanksgiving. Here’s to you and your family and your personal quest for leadership- “We constantly change the world, even by our inaction. Therefore, let us change it responsibly.” – Benjamin Franklin