Once upon a time I was appointed as leader of a group. We were in the wilderness and there were many children gathered together at a small clearing. I had been out exploring the nearby woods while the children rested, played and ate their lunch. When I came back to the group they were cold and the day was drawing to a close.
The other adults in the group looked to me for help. Having explored the woods, they needed me to guide the children back to the parking lot. The adults would be busy at another task and so I would have to do this alone.
For a moment after my appointment, I stood there with the eyes of every one upon me. I was afraid because I did not know the woods very well and I often get lost even in my own neighborhood back home. I don’t have any children of my own and so children are somewhat of a foreign creature to me. And yet, they all looked to me for protection, their eyes full of complete trust. The adults held more knowing of the danger, but they too believed completely in my ability to guide the children back to safety. Full of fear and feeling the increasingly heavy air of urgency around me I straightened my shoulders and accepted the position. The sun was already below the trees.
To the children, I smiled and gave them instructions with complete confidence. When they asked me questions, I answered. When they said, “I am afraid and don’t know what to do” I told them. I assured them that they would come to no harm as we climbed through the brush, even though there was no path through the trees and only my poor and nervous memory to guide us.
Eventually we did make it back to the cars and to civilization. The children were loaded into the passenger seats and their packs tossed into the trunk. The other adults had returned to the parking lot by this time and we all waved as the children were taken back to their lives. If they had any doubt in my ability to guide these children safely through the barely known, they did not show it. Neither did I vent my uncertainties to them. In silent communication we all turned then and dispersed back to our own realities.
My appointment to leadership here is a dream, though every feeling I experienced during my waking moments. I do not think of myself as a leader. I do not think of myself as particularly capable. Often I am only barely a few paces ahead of those who would put their trust completely in my hands. If I have anything to offer to those who would follow me, it is perhaps nothing more than my willingness to risk my life and my property for the sake of adventure, and my readiness to step up when the group needs me. I am a nervous being, really, and yet others look to me and see capability. People talk of natural leaders and they might say I am one. However I cannot lead those who would not follow me. And truly, it is in being bestowed with the honor and responsibility of leadership that I am able to accomplish things that, alone, are more than I can imagine.