Being of Service – the Stories That Inspire

On the Friday of Veteran’s Day Weekend, Thunderbird Leadership will be hosting its 11th Annual Leadership Summit. The notion of service logically emerged as the theme.
When we see folks in the military, we thank them for their service…they relinquish the many privileges that most of us take for granted to serve a greater good.
And the importance of service cannot be overlooked. There is a strong conviction in numerous belief systems to contribute to making the world a better place.
Each of us know stories of heroism, courage, purpose and forgiveness that inspire us and call us toward something better, something larger, toward the best version of ourselves.  Those who have embraced service as the central value of their lives loom in our mind’s eye as extraordinary, perhaps even as chosen in some inexplicable fashion.  We consider them with awe, wondering what it might be like to be an icon of such devotion, such commitment, such dimension, such altruism.1
But what of us? How do we see ourselves in the role of service?
Sometimes, acts of courage unfold in quieter and less spectacular ways.  Woven within our personal biographies are our own moments of courage, sharp purpose, of kindness and tender mercies – spectacular stories, ordinary stories and sometimes forgotten stories.  Captured in the details of our very own lives is the evidence that we each know the ways in which we, too, serve those around us and serve the greater good – and we know the deep fulfillment and connection that emerges when we consciously center our lives in service.
We have an illusion that our past is static, fixed in history…and yet, memory is really fluid. What we recall, the stories we tell ourselves, impacts what we think we are capable of. I am fascinated by the notion of how our memory serves us and am not sure what changes first, our thoughts and beliefs or the memories that inspire them.
At the Summit, we will have a chance to hear from Dr. Gladys McGarey, a pioneer in integrated medicine. She has had an amazing 97 years on this planet from her early years in pre-partition India with her medical missionary parents to her pioneering practice in the Phoenix area. When we talked about what she will present, she noted that the direction of her remarks will be influenced by her audience…what memories will we invoke? How will she inspire us?
We will all have an opportunity to share, to listen, to explore our own stories … to understand with new perspectives who we are, what we have accomplished and what we are capable of going forward.
We will also have a chance to challenge our stories. Are some of them outdated? Ones we need to rewrite? In graduate school many years ago, a professor asked me to lead a group on a project. I told him, “Oh no, I am not a leader, I am a good follower.” He looked at me with a puzzled expression on his face and said, “That may have been true in the past, but not anymore.”
And of course, I remember that story and use it in my own coaching practice.
So what do you tell yourself? What stories are generating energy and momentum in your life? What stories are dragging you down?
Join us for a day of stories, reflections, and delightful experiences as we honor those who serve, explore our own stories of everyday courage and embracing living and working from the heart of service.
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1 Content in italics from the invitation to Being of Service: Discovering Meaning, Courage and Mercy Through Personal Odyssey magnificently crafted by Dr. Carla Rotering for Thunderbird Leadership’s 11th Annual Summit