Chapter 1: The Essence of Leadership - A Parable
That fateful day began like many before it. I woke at 5am, leaned over and kissed my sleeping wife before sitting upright dangling my feet a few inches above a set of clothes that were neatly laid out on the floor. Darkness still blanketed the room, but I could see the outline of my favorite white t-shirt with the famed rap group Run DMC emblazoned across the chest in big bold black letters. Long green mesh running shorts were folded next to the t-shirt. The shorts bore the Wayne State University Tartars logo on one leg. My old New Balance running shoes stuffed with clean white athletic socks rounded out the ensemble. Standing in the dark, I pulled down my pajamas and slipped into the shorts. I lifted the matching pajama top over my head and lifted both arms high in air and shook my hands wildly as if the blood in them needed encouragement to flow. Picking up my running shirt, I turned it over to make sure Run DMC faced forward. The shirt smelled flowery fresh as I pulled it over my head taking in the scent of fresh laundry. Thanks to my wife, the laundered fabrics greet me every morning in neat folds without fail. “If you can’t take care of the little things like clothing care, how can you take of the big things like caring for your health,” she often said. Her care mantra of little and big things helped me avoid smoking cigarettes, alcohol, or indulge in drugs of any kind. Most people, including my doctor, found my lack of indulges unbelievable. I grew up in an urban world surrounded by people that were addicted to drugs, smoking, and drinking and escaped without even a scratch. I lived my life believing that “the teacher would come when the student was ready.” Attributed to Confucius, the belief stressed that the lesson explained that the reason for the things that happen to us get explained when we are emotionally, mentally, and physically ready. I’m still waiting on the proverbial teacher to come back and explain to me the lesson of my abstinence. I suspect the answer will have something to do with living with family members that suffered from the excessive indulgence.
Dressed in my running gear, I grabbed my earphones and Sony Walkman and pushed open the kitchen screen door. The loud creaking sound from the rust covered hinges served as reminder of my wife’s mantra of “taking care of the little things,” and my promise to fix the door as soon as possible. I bent my knees and squatted to stretch my thigh muscles while holding on to the door handle. After a few reps, I placed the earphones into my ears and pushed play on the Walkman clipped to my waist. I looked at my watch - 6am. Forty-five minutes later, the squealing kitchen door opened again signaling the end of the run and I went straight to the shower in the bathroom next to our bedroom. The noise from the running water in the shower and my feet walking on the loose oak floorboards were loud, but not loud enough to wake my sleeping wife. I stepped into the steam of the shower and leaned on the door as hot water rained down on head.
At 7:00 am, dressed and fresh from the shower, I sat at the kitchen table staring at the small television sitting on the opposite end. Eating breakfast, like running, resembled a ritual. An open Bible, a large bowl of Captain Crunch cereal, and the television tuned to CNN but on low volume framed the venue. The start of the process is always the same. Sit down and take a deep breath, take a quantity of pages of the Bible in my hand, close my hands, and turn randomly alternating forward or backward daily and point my finger to a random scripture on one of the two exposed pages. Whatever the scripture, it became my focus and meditative thought for the day. I closed my eyes, gripped a handful of pages of the King James version and turned forward since I did backwards yesterday. I opened my eyes and the tip of my index finger rested on Hebrews 13:2 – “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” I read the scripture three times memorizing it as I ate cereal while staring at the news reporter on CNN who gave the expected forecast the Detroit area - clear and sunny day, no showers, hot and muggy, the weatherman said.