In my final year at Yale Divinity School, I was named the Community Life Coordinator. It was a cool job, and it meant I oversaw all of the other clubs and committees, helped with budgets for those groups, planned parties, helped with the daily coffee hour after chapel, and well, got to be a social butterfly. It was an awesome job, and I was really honored to be selected for it. Amy had been the “CLC” the year before me, and in her orientation of the job and it’s duties, she listed one I would never have anticipated. She told me that everyday, she saw it as part of her job to eat lunch with a different group of people in the refectory (dining hall). She said that she saw lunch as a time for gathering, a time to learn about each other and a time to make new bonds.
I remember this seemed very unusual to me. But, for whatever reason, I decided to incorporate it into my “CLC” duties for the next year. And it was amazing. I found myself sharing ideas with all sorts of students, engaging in interesting conversations. I understood why this had been important to Amy; it broke me out of my day to day routine, and it opened up new avenues of discussion for all sorts of people. Even at Divinity School, there are cliques. But, but making a decided effort to spread my horizons beyond my usual friends, I felt myself grow in ways I wouldn’t have guessed possible.
Just a year or so ago, when working with a vendor on a big website build, I was reminded of this idea. One time on the phone, Kyle (my main contact) told me that his company saw their role as being more than just a group that provided a service. He said that they worked daily to go out of their way to bring peace, happiness, and a personal touch to every client they encountered. He said that he knew that daily business was chaotic and crazy, and that they aimed to be an oasis in that daily grind.
When Kyle said this, I was in awe. What he had said was true, I did feel more at ease working with his company than others. It was refreshing to know that it wasn’t something that “just happened,” but something that his company willingly decided to pursue.
When I look back on these examples of leadership, I also see another quality coming in to play. By choosing to actively get to know the people they work with, live with, spend time with, Amy and Kyle were forming the roots of a community. By taking an interest in others, in making time for other people, by finding out personal details, each person felt valued, understood, welcomed. Community takes time, it takes dedication, sometimes it even takes “intention.” For both Amy and Kyle, it didn’t matter so much WHO the people involved were, but that they were all part of the same path, the same school, or the same project. They were valued because they were there.
These two have in turn taught me a lot about being a better project manager, and a better retreat leader. Each person is on a team, or at a retreat, for a reason. It’s not my role to judge that reason, but it is my role to support them, to bring peace, happiness, and a personal touch to their experience.
At the heart of the matter, I also see that these two embodied Jesus’ teaching, his own definition of discipleship. In John 13:34-35, Jesus explains to his disciples “I give you anew commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” It is no coincidence that both were people of strong faith, one a minister and one an active Mormon. Their practice of discipleship, of inclusion, and of love remains and inspiration to me.
What these two examples have challenged me to consider – what can each of us decide is in our own “human” job description for the time that we are on this planet? Can we actively make a decision to do things differently, to treat people more lovingly, to encourage a larger sense of “community” amongst everyone we meet, whether it be at work or at home? Can we each make the decision to truly embody Jesus’ commandment to love others as he loved us, in act and deed, treating each person we encounter as if they are one of His disciples standing before us?