Learning to be Helpless

October 5th, 2012 by under Uncategorized. No Comments.

Many of us at Smith commute to College Park from DC, Maryland, or Virginia – there are clusters of us who develop little Smith communities in each of the areas we live.  We study together, run/bike/paddleboard/yoga/travel together, BBQ/happy hour/dine together, and enjoy other urban ramblings-about together.  It’s a wonderful collateral to our program – I feel so lucky to have a great group of classmates and friends in DC.  And when I found myself with a broken leg on the second day of school, I realized how much we’ve become a family.

Living alone with a broken leg is very challenging.  I can’t take out the trash by myself.  I can’t sweep my front porch on one leg.  I can’t change lightbulbs (which oddly all burned out last week).  I can’t go grocery shopping.  Hopping around on one foot while vacuuming, dusting, making the bed, and doing laundry is exhausting.  This loss of independence has been crushing – – oh, and I also happened to be in the middle of marathon training, which has been crushing as well.  I had just completed my first 20-mile run on the Saturday before the Monday that I broke my leg, and was planning to run the Marine Corps Marathon with two of my Smith running buddies in October.  I’m mourning the loss of that early-morning fellowship and missing my favorite days of running: the sunny, cool days on the border of summer and fall.

But I’m thankful.  My Smith family has rallied around me to shuttle me to and from school, help with the trash and sweeping and lightbulbs and groceries.  They’ve shared their cars, their time, and their levity – stealthily rallying the DC team to keep me mobile and in good spirits while I recover.  I’ll never be able to fully express my gratitude for their help, and realize that’s what’s special about a true family – we give according to our abilities, to each according to their need (maybe “liking each other” is the key to socialism).  As it turns out, it’s pretty incredible to be surrounded by people who are driven towards success; even in the simplest scenarios (e.g., “helping Megan up a flight of stairs”), my Smith family helps me feel human, capable, and a part of something great.

At Smith, we are all learning to be leaders – which means we also need to learn how to follow, and gracefully give up some of our control.  As expressed by of the world’s great leaders, Nelson Mandela, “It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur.  You take the front line when there is danger.  Then people will appreciate your leadership.”  Learning to follow gives us a chance to observe our impact as leaders; to fit the gloves on future leaders and encourage our team to take ownership and be more engaged in the strategic direction of an organization.  We have to learn to trust our teammates, and have faith that their vision for the mission at hand is of the same design and quality as your own.

Nelson Mandela, “…an ordinary man, who became a leader because of extraordinary circumstances.”

Life with the moonboot (as I fondly refer to my new high-tech accessory) has been an education.  I’ve learned that I can’t do everything on my own, and stubborn independence will never trump the need for a team.  I’ve learned to respect my own limitations, and ask for help – it’s been a crash-course in delegation, acceptance and gratitude.  In return, I’ve been shown such patience, encouragement and support by my Smith family, and am amazed by their integrity and unconditional kindness.  They’ve led me through this challenge, and I’ve learned to give up some of my control – the first step in learning to follow.  So yes, I’m thankful to have learned this lesson, and to have had an opportunity to experience the teamwork of this troupe of future leaders…but I can’t wait to lace up my kicks and hit the trails again.

The MOONBOOT: an education.