Who Inspires You?

We are all inspired. We all have the power to inspire.

Eric, my professor for my Introduction to Leadership class, mentioned earlier in the semester that we would be doing a powerful activity in class that would help us get a better sense of the true meaning of leadership. The activity was delayed due to a couple of class cancellations (snow days, to be exact), but finally, near the end of the semester, Eric was able to set aside some class time for it.

Our task was to think of someone who has inspired us and think of how and why they have inspired us. We would then write a few sentences about why they inspired us. Afterwards Eric went around the room and offered us the chance to share what we wrote if we wanted to. There was no pressure; if you didn't want to share, you didn't have to share. Still, each of us went ahead and spoke.

Eric started by talking about one of his teachers pushed him to do his best. Some of my classmates followed by sharing how their family members helped them through tough times. One person said that he was motivated when one of his wrestling teammates picked him to win the state championship in his weight class. Another choked up while talking about some of the kids she works with.

I didn't get a chance to write much, simply because it's hard to think of one single person who has shaped my life more than all the others. I thought about many people: my family (including my grandpa), other students, teachers, professors, pastors - even politicians

Yet somehow, on this particular day, in this particular class, one person stood out: Mrs. Nancy Reahm, my principal at Brookwood Elementary School.

In fourth grade, our teacher, Mrs. Johnson, asked us to write a letter to a woman in honor of Mother's Day. I chose Mrs. Reahm. My letter to Mrs. Reahm thanked her for being such a wonderful principal and person.

I credit Mrs. Reahm for building a culture that Brookwood that valued tolerance, kindness, and respect. Values people talk about but don't always live out. Values which, several years later, have led me to being a progressive Democrat.

Much to my surprise, she wrote me back, telling me how much she enjoyed reading my letter. She said that if she ever had a bad day, she would pull it out and re-read it to find comfort.

Think about it: Here was a principal who led a school of roughly 350 students and 25 or so teachers, and had to deal with a host of administrative, curricular, disciplinary, and other issues, taking the time out of her busy schedule to write me back, letting me know how my letter had made her day.

I suppose that I inspired Mrs. Reahm by writing that letter. But that was part of a class assignment. I believe her response inspired me much more. You see, it was then that I began to see the true power of words. I mean, my principal found my words moving - imagine that

I don't know whatever happened to the letter she sent me. If I still have it, then it must be tucked away in a closet or file somewhere. Still, her response is still solid proof that what I do or say to people can have a powerful impact.

Mrs. Reahm and I both left Brookwood ten years ago - I went to middle school, while she retired. But while our days at Brookwood are a distant memory, those values are still ingrained in me to this day - and I hope and pray that they will stay with me forever.

So I wanted to take this opportunity to invite each of you who read this blog post to share a story - long or short - about someone who inspires you.

It can be anyone who has had an impact on your life - from your family and friends, to a coach or colleague, to someone whom you haven't even met It doesn't have to be someone who fills a leadership role; just someone who, through word or deed, has inspired you to become a better person, to do better things, to treat people better... to make the world a better place.

And feel free to share many stories, if you wish; the more tales of inspiration, the merrier

And I'll conclude this diary as Eric concluded the activity in class: by reminding you that, just as others have inspired you, you have the power to inspire others... and you never know when something you say or do for someone turns out to be just what the doctor ordered for them.

Just as Mrs. Reahm has inspired me to expect the best out of myself and others, I am well aware that at amy moment, I may be the one who inspires and motivates others to be the best that they can be.

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