Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Ah Yes, Convention Stories!

One week at convention can have an incredible impact, and sometimes teach lessons that we miss every day.

It was Tuesday morning and an FFA member decided to buy granola bars for breakfast during the week of convention, so he sauntered through the pulsing streets towards CVS Pharmacy. The steam from the man hole covers blew sideways before dissipating in the brisk morning wind. The floodgate of blue jackets was about to burst into the streets of Indianapolis, but the 7 am commute of the city hurried on into the Tuesday work-world. Five lanes of cars flashed by in the dim and waxing light. Pedestrians in overcoats with heads down rushed to and fro.  Sometimes, just for kicks, the member tried to make eye contact with a stranger and see if he could coax a smile. Most people, on most mornings, take a keen interest in their shoes and would shuffle on faster. However he was wearing Official Dress this time, and something about the jacket made strangers respond to his nonverbal greetings. Today his smile and recognition of others spoke to their worth.

Tens of thousands of people stood and cheered after Jason Troendle spoke the last word of his retiring address. As quotes about what love was filled the background screen of the stage, something I didn't understand started to happen. The National FFA Secretary extended his pointer finger, pinkie, and thumb in an expression that looked like this.
I just let it go and kept cheering as dozens, then hundreds of students on the delegate floor, then in the stands responded likewise. I still didn't understand it, but figured in the grand scheme of convention it wouldn't matter. Oh well, whatever. Later that week, as I was walking across the plush hotel lobby towards a glistening elevator (and sleep) I happened to see Jason. A tie bracelet with blue and white woven into the worn ornament added a personable air to the business-like suit he sported. In the ensuing conversation, I thought back to to the session and asked what the symbol meant. As he shaped his hands he said "This means I love you in sign language".

Erin Daninger, my sister, was the National Officer Candidate for Minnesota. As the names of the new National Officers were announced one by one on Saturday, hers was not among them. As tears and hugs were exchanged after the lights flickered on, a group of girls formed around her. They put their arms around each other's shoulders and started to sing to my sister. These were my sister's Beta of Clovia sorority sisters, and though I didn't know what exactly they were singing, I knew that, at that moment, those lyrics meant more to my disappointed sister than I could ever express in this blog. 

Walking through the streets of Indy. A sign language word. A song. None of these would seem that important, but really they are all that is important. They all say "you are important to me", "I value you", "I love you". And love is all that matters. In the words of Maya Angelou “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Leadership, sometimes, is less about being able to give an inspirational speech, delivering a fantastic workshop, or running a meeting effectively. The most important influence has to do with loving others. As the writer of Corinthians once  said "If I... have not love, I am nothing". Anyone can do the three things in the stories above; loving others can really be as simple as a smile, a symbol, or a song. These things we can do each day speak to one point:

To make a difference in the world, Love out Loud.

Dare to Love.
Dare to Do.

Stationed by the Emblem of Washington,
Nathan Daninger

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