Inspiration Journal - Body - Mind - Spirit
Issue 44 Inspiration Journal, July - August - September 2010

Born Leaders by Mason Chock

Are leaders born? Do great leaders come into this world with a natural ability to affect greater advancements for humanity? Are they gifted with the talent to empower others around them as they themselves are lifted through their successes? Life stories and biographies of great leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi, Nelsen Mandela, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa and many, many more remind us how leaders become who they are. It is through commitment to developing socially, emotionally and intellectually through life's experiences that leaders solidify their ability to affect huge change.

Here's an example of what I'm talking about:

Returning from a recent Honolulu trip, as I sat on the bench fronting the sidewalk of the Lihu`e airport terminal, I noticed a familiar face in an airport security guard uniform. The fact that he was one of those security guards that shoos everyone away from the baggage claim area wasn't what caught my eye. Rather it was his pleasant smile that gleamed from afar which triggered my attention. I quickly remembered him as one of my fellow haumana (students) who along with me had dedicated time to learning the art of la`au lapa`au (Hawaiian medicinal herbs) through Kumu Levon Ohai's KCC class. As he approached, he greeted me and asked how I had been. His demeanor was very `oluolu (giving) and ha`aha`a (humble), like a wise older man who had seen the world and now was content with life.

I was excited to ask if he had been practicing la`au lately and I inquired how any of our lessons had affected his life. Within the few minutes that we had to share, he expressed an eloquent story of the depth of who he was. He said, "I am retired, and hold this security job because I need to receive medical coverage for certain procedures. This job is tough," he went on, "people swear at me, spit on me, give me the bird when I ask them to circle around the airport loop so as to not clog up the traffic and to follow airport security guidelines. The reason I explain this to you has a direct relation to my learning that you ask of. It's taken my whole life, its challenges and its lessons to shape me into who I am today. If there was anything that I've learned from the knowledge gained in la`au class, it is the necessity to cleanse ourselves before expecting to help others. I am so thankful for being able to practice cleansing my body, spirit and mind on a daily basis through prayer, fasting and practicing good health. It makes life so easy to manage and to deal with. The reason I can take the constant abuse that this job offers is because I am sound in mind, body and spirit. It gives me the strength and wherewithal to continue to serve others. Situations that were difficult earlier in my life seem to just roll off of me now. I am much more tolerant and at peace. But I certainly wasn't born this way - it came with years of hard lessons that ke akua placed before me in order to acknowledge patience, fortitude, integrity and perseverance. "

I was very touched by his answer. I will certainly not look at airport security the same way again! It made me reflect on many of my life's lessons and how they've shaped who I am. His wisdom reminded me of the characteristics of true leaders and the lessons they endured in order to reach their goals. It helped me to understand that there are some who are naturally talented, gifted to serve and to lead; but there are far more who have spent a lifetime of hard work learning how to become better, thoughtful and effective leaders who are balanced with emotional, intellectual and social intelligence.

As I think about this older man working as an airport security guard, I am reminded of the many great leaders who have proven that leaders aren't born, they're made. The great coach of the Minesota Vikings, Vince Lombardi, once said, "Leaders aren't born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that's the price we have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal."

May we always keep in mind our personal responsibility to ourselves in order to serve the world, and always look for ways to learn to become leaders.

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