#MLK DAY: A Story and A Dollar + 1

Today, we honor the legacy of the man Martin Luther King Jr. He said a lot about many things in his lifetime, and his words still resound with folks everywhere. For me, one of such quotes from him is on service – one of my core values.

Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.

And like Martin Luther King, I am a dreamer…

I too have a dream

I (too) have a dream…

…about many things. I often revel in idealist visions, one which permeates the “I have a dream” speech, which I’m currently watching again to commemorate this day. This vision of his leaves no one out.

added: After I had finished writing this post, I remembered that this speech was played to us on the 3rd day of LeaderShape conference. This was meant to inspire us to create our own visions, vision being “mental pictures of what we want to create for the future.” These pictures often seem impossibly difficult to bring to reality, and it might take time – sometimes, the original dreamer might not even live long enough to be a part of it. Well…

I too have a dream

…that one day, I’ll travel across the world, telling and sharing stories (of mine and others) as an echo of that ideal sense of brotherhood among all men.

I have a dream

…to use these stories I tell to connect us all.

It is in light of that, in an effort to be an active participant in this putting together of the strands of our stories to make a collective whole that I listen unreservedly while others tell theirs.

I love strangers, mostly because they have the most exciting stories.

On Friday, as I approached the stop to catch a bus, I saw a man sitting by the curb playing a guitar. From my rough assessment, I would say he was probably homeless. I struck up a conversation with him and asked him how long he’d been playing for. He said 40, 12 of those years he stopped, and just began playing again 8 years ago. There is something for me to learn in that, as a dreamer:

to be relentless in the pursuit of my dreams, to not give up (at least not completely – to still come back to them even after I might have stopped for 12 years )

I told him one of my goals is to learn how to play an instrument before I die; I started learning the piano a while back but stopped 😦 I asked him to play some popular songs, and he obliged. He played Jackson’s “I’ll be there”, Stevie Wonder’s “My Cherie Amour”, and a song by Roberta Flack which I wasn’t familiar with. It was then he told me his age (59), and we started talking about the music he grew up on. And then we talked about my accent (who doesn’t?), and where I was from…

…And then, the bus came. There were still a lot I wanted to talk to him about though. I wanted to hear more of his story.

In retrospect, I think it was in the spirit of service that I lent my ear to listen to this man. As I was thinking about how to compose this post, I remembered THIS POST by a fellow blogger that motivated me to include, in the list of my goals, a random act of kindness.

Maybe this was it.

While we were chatting, I kept thinking about the lyrics from this song, I Need a Dollar:

“If I share with you my story, will you share your dollar with me?”

Luckily, I had two.

As we stepped inside the bus, I told him, “It’s not much, but you can use it for your bus fare.”

I Wonder What My Bed Sheets Say…

“…I know this sounds weird, but sometimes I wonder what my bed sheets say about me when I’m not around. I wonder what the curtains would do if they found out about all the things I’ve done behind their backs…”

This post is about integrity. Apart from the endless possibilities mind-frame we were taught to embrace at LeaderShape, we were also taught to lead with integrity. As leaders (anyone can be a leader, and we all are in one regards or the other. Leaders are not born after all, they’re made!) integrity is very essential. It’s what determines whether or not one deserve a following or not.

The dictionary defines integrity as:

soundness of moral character; honesty. the state of being whole, entire, or undiminished

And truth be told, I can’t say that I’ve fully lived (or am fully living) a life of integrity. But part of being a person of integrity is being at least honest about that.

Honesty.

Authenticity, to be specific, is one of the five core values I was able to identify as important to me at LeaderShape. The other four are Service, Creativity, Balance, and Growth. So far, I have written about Service and Growth on this blog. (Click on the links to read about them)

The quote above is from a poet by the name of Rudy Francisco whom I revere so much . His poem titled “My Honest Poem” is one of  the major influences for the poem UnMask which I did for my birthday. The other influences being Miles Hodges’ Maskless, and Benjamin Zander’s book, The Art of Possibility. (Again, click the links)

Honesty. Transparency. These are qualities I absolutely adore (as anyone close to me would tell you), and sure this comes with a willingness to be vulnerable – to be considered weak. However, to be vulnerable requires a lot of strength. Try it once, if only once in your entire life! No excuses, no explanations, no apologies, nothing! Just your story!

And that is where integrity comes in. See, it’s quite easy to lie about oneself in a poem – either to paint oneself worse than one actually is, or better than one actually is.

Integrity (or character) after all is this:

doing the right thing when we think nobody’s looking.

And the right thing here is telling our stories exactly as they are.

No edits!

And I can assure you, my closed curtains have been witnesses to some of the countless wrongs I have done. Now if only they could talk…