Terry asked us all to gather around the picnic table outside. He had brought his hiking stick with him as he hopped up on top of the table.
“I want you all to stand a couple of feet back from the table until I call out your name.” He cleared his throat for a second and let out a big breath to settle his nerves.
“I wrote fifteen words on my hiking stick. These are all words that reflect characteristics that I want to exemplify in all facets of my life. These are also words that I’ve seen reflected in each of you during this retreat. When I call out your name, I’ll share the particular trait that I’ve associated with you. In many ways, you’ve all become my teachers and I thank you for that.”
Terry placed his stick in the hole in the middle of the table and took out his notes. “Andrew, your sense of humor and playfulness taught me to never take myself too seriously. My word for you is play. Have a seat at the table.”
Andrew nodded in appreciation and sat down.
Terry continued. “Jeremy, you have always been a sponge for learning. You ask such great questions and always make me think. I love how you love to learn. My word for you is sponge. You taught me to always be the student.”
Jeremy smiled and joined Andrew at the table.
Within the next few minutes, Terry had shared all of his fifteen words along with the individuals who reminded him of their meaning. He then wrapped up his presentation by saying, “Before this experience I occasionally thought about these words; but to be honest, they were never a part of me. That’s why I asked you all to stand away from the table initially. That’s how it was. But through these past three days, you have each helped me see the deeper meaning behind these words and now they’ve become a part of me, just like all of you have around this table…”
It is much easier to lead than to be led, at least in Leslie’s world. She liked having control and frankly didn’t always trust others. This is also why she was having a particularly difficult time being led blindfolded in the trust walk activity.
“Did he just say what I thought he said?” asked Leslie to Dawn, her partner.
“You mean the part about us not being able to talk once we get outside?” replied Dawn.
“I was afraid of that,” gasped Leslie. “I don’t know about this.”
“Leslie, you are just going to have to trust me. I promise I’ll be careful.”
Leslie shook her head. “It’s not about you Dawn, it’s about me. I have trust issues.”
Just then the group started moving outside. Leslie said a little prayer to herself as she reluctantly moved out the door, hands locked with Dawn.
The line of trust walk partners moved slowly down the steps of the porch to the ground. Dawn squeezed Leslie’s hand every time they successfully made it past an obstacle or obstruction along the way. The stairs were fairly easy to negotiate, but climbing over the large picnic table…not so much.
Leslie expected to struggle and she initially did. What she didn’t expect, however, was the rush of sensory cues from her four remaining senses. She could not only feel the slight chill in the mountain air, she could smell it. The powerful river…just a few hundred feet away, sounded like a giant waterfall as it echoed off the canyon walls. It was so loud…and so peaceful at the same time. And the uneven ground beneath her feet forced her to feel each step as if she was an infant walking for the first time.
“Are you smiling?” whispered Dawn as they started to cross a bridge walking backwards.
“I am,” smiled Leslie. “This is cool! I’m actually having fun. It feels like I’m a kid again.”
Suddenly Dawn placed Leslie’s right hand on what appeared to be a ladder of some sort. She then tapped Leslie’s knee, which meant to lift her leg. Leslie took the cue and slowly began to climb. After the fourth step, Dawn signaled for her to sit.
Laughter erupted from the two people before them.
Curiously, Leslie moved her hand around the platform and felt a gradual drop-off.
By this time Dawn had her hands around the back of Leslie’s shoulders, slightly pushing her forward. Leslie grabbed for the sides as her feet moved down the decline.
It’s a slide! mused Leslie. Memories of her childhood flooded over her and made her giggle. The next gentle push from Dawn had her sliding down on her way to the bottom.
I’m laughing like a child, thought Leslie as she was led from the slide to a swing on the swing set. And I’m trusting like I once did. Maybe it’s time for me to really let go of control!
The group spread out around the mountain, staying close enough to hear the facilitator shout out instructions.
“Pull out a pen and your values sheet and narrow the list of values on the page down to your top ten.”
Within minutes everyone had their top ten values identified. The instructor pressed on. “Now, I’d like you to select your top five values from your list of ten.”
Although some struggled, the group quickly complied and everyone was down to five values.
“Now I’d like to take you on a narrative journey together,” said the instructor as he pulled out a piece of paper and began reading. “Close your eyes and picture yourself on an airplane to the vacation of a lifetime.”
As the story unfolded, a series of unexpected turn of events kept cropping up, forcing each person to give up one of their five remaining core values in order to survive throughout the journey. Despite complaints and resistance, this process continued until a final value was left standing for each group member.
“You are now left with one remaining value; this was the value you held on to all the way to the end. It must be an incredibly important value to you,” summarized the instructor.
The group then shared their top three values with each other and explained why their remaining value was so important to them. It was a difficult exercise but one that brought tremendous clarity.
So what do these three scenarios have in common?
They were all excerpts from last week’s Leading From Within program!