So here we are. Halloween over. Election Day over. Veteran's Day here. And all I can think about is: Courage.
A friend of mine was telling me about her four-year-old son and his trick-or-treating escapades. She shared how he (dressed as a Skylander -- I know, I didn't know what that was either) and two of his little friends (Olaf the Snowman and Mr. Panda Bear) would gingerly and tentatively walk up to each home. Olaf would take the lead, and they would ever-so-slowly make their way up to the front step. Once there, they had to dig deep within themselves to actually knock on the door. Still, no relief from their fear. Not quite yet. Filled with hope-against-hope, they would stand there praying that no one would scare them once the door actually opened. She said you could see that actually speaking the words "Trick-or-treat!" were a relief because they'd done the hard part.
And this is how it went with every. single. house.
But the reward...oh, the reward...was SO worth it!
Candy. Bushels of it.
Over the past few weeks, I have led several panel discussions on (gasp) RACE in front of large audiences. If you're like 99 percent of the rest of the population in our country, just hearing the words "race discussion" stops you in your tracks like a deer in headlights.
People ask me how I do it. How I lead those hard discussions. As in, "Aren't you nervous, Trudy?" or "Oh Trudy, I could never do that. You're so much braver than I could ever be." And then, "Talking about race is so hard. I don't even know where or how to begin."
But like our little trick-or-treaters, I had to be bold. I had to step out. I had to do it afraid. I had to dig deep and let my courage lead me.
Why? Because it's time for courage like we've never had or seen before. Leading the race discussion at your organization, starting the courageous conversation, running for office and getting defeated, all of it and more. The more we do it, the less power it has over us. The less fear we feel.
It's time to be the "difference of one" where you are. Right now. To let your courage - not your fear - lead you.
I recently read an interview from author/journalist, Nicholas Kristof. It touched something deep in my soul. And we all have stories like this that we could share. Those stories of how one person made a difference in our life...
When people scoff and say individual charitable acts are "drops in the bucket, I push back," said Mr. Kristof, citing the case of the World War II refugee from Romania who was taken in by an Oregon family.
The refugee happened to be his father.
"They didn't solve the refugee problem around the world, but for my dad it was transformative. I wouldn't be here if it weren't for that drop in the bucket. That's how buckets get filled, drop by drop by drop."
Drop by drop by drop...YES. Every courageous conversation. Drop. Every hard discussion on race with your team or even with your family members. Drop. Every election (even when your candidate loses). Drop.
With courage, the bucket CAN get filled. But we must, must, MUST step out into it. Let it lead. Let it guide. Let it win.
On days like Veteran's Day, we celebrate the obvious and outright courage of our veterans. Of those who risked, continue to risk or GAVE their lives for our sake. It is easy for us to see and identify their courage. And to be oh-so-thankful. Beyond thankful, in fact.
But now it's time to...
Let your courage be seen. Let yourself and others know what your courage looks like. And, like our trick-or-treaters, reap the rewards of your courage. Because there ARE rewards...for yourself, for those closest to you and even for those you don't even know.
I can think of no better way to end than with her words:
"I'm asking you to show courage. I'm asking you to be bold. As business leaders, I'm asking you not to leave anything on the table. As citizens, I'm asking you not to leave any child behind. I'm asking you not to be color blind, but to be color brave, so that every child knows that their future matters and their dreams are possible."