My Site Has Moved

I am so excited to announce that I have a new address for my blog! Please visit me at http://www.niecytaylor.com.

Looking forward to seeing you there.

Of Service: The Perfect Example

Ben

Some may be turned off that I talk about my faith so much in relation to my work. The reality is that my faith is the true essence of who I am, so I do it unashamed and am unapologetic about it.  My life of service is because I follow the greatest example that ever lived – Jesus Christ.

The Easter season always reminds me of the ultimate sacrifice that any man has ever given – the sacrifice of One’s own life to save others.  I love this season because I believe it is a time for new life to spring forth, for breakthrough and resurrection of God’s purpose in our lives.

One of the most common practices during this season – foot washing-  serves as a reminder to us as leader’s – whether believers or not – that in order to effectively lead, we must be good at serving.  We must always remember to not view ourselves as better than those we are leading.

We can glean an important lesson from the lesson taught by Jesus to His disciples when he said:

“Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him.”

How important that lesson is.  In the context of leading an organization or movement, we must always remember that the people we are serving must come first. Sometimes we get so caught up in the process that we lose sight of our mission, our purpose.  At the end of the day, we are called to serve, and our work must reflect that.

This past weekend, my brother-in-law and others from the Men’s Ministry visited the Albuquerque Rescue Mission to take part in their foot washing service. I was moved by his testimony about the experience.  In response to a conversation he had with a man he met that day who had lost his home that he, his wife and three children were living, this is what Ben said:

“He told me that when times get tough just speak to God and he will see you out.I thought to myself if a man in his situation has faith in God we should all have faith. Over these past few months I have asked God just to use me to help people. I know there is a calling on the purpose of my life.”

So this Easter season I ask my readers, what are you doing to serve in order to understand God’s purpose for your life?  Even if you are a non-Christian, what inspires you to serve day after day.  I’ve worked with people who amaze me, whose daily activities are full of Grace, yet they are devout atheists.  I see God in their work – even if they don’t acknowledge Him. Through their service, the purpose for their life is revealed.

The greatest example I can think of on how to live a purpose driven life is that displayed to us by Jesus.  If He understood that He must serve in order to be an effective leader and to fulfill the purpose for His life, then I know without a shadow of a doubt that I must serve as well.

Whether it be feet washing, stepping out the office to actually meet your organization’s clients or volunteering at a place that serves those less fortunate than you, I challenge you to step out this Spring to serve and to find your purpose.

Quote of the Day: Service

“Serving someone today will be more rewarding and fulfilling than your endless pursuit of individual gain.” Pete Wilson

Diversity – Where Are You?

I must admit, one of my greatest frustrations with working in the Community Change (non-profit) sector is our repeated attempts to “find” diversity and our repeated “failures” in “finding” it.

I’ve sat in many rooms with many great leaders of some pretty awesome organizations and listened to the conversation about how our boards don’t “look like” or represent the clients we serve and our staffs don’t either.  Many times the conversation has gone to the fact that those in administrative positions may “look like” the clients but those in decision making roles do not.  After all this talk has occurred, I can generally feel eyes in the room glance at me, as if I – the single Black woman in the room – might have THE answer. I don’t.

I don’t know why many of our organizations sit around the table at strategic planning meetings, board meetings, staff meetings and hiring committees and ask this question. I don’t know.  I deleted the line in this post about the reality that people have mounting student loan debt and can’t afford a life in the non-profit world, that’s a fact. I also deleted the line about people finally “making it out” and wanting to make the kind of money they never had before.  I have to respect both positions, but I don’t think the answer is there.

I think the answer is so much deeper than that.  I don’t know how many times I’ve talked to my friends about the work I do and they say, “oh, you are doing your non-profit thing”, as if one day I’m going to snap out of it and pursue a real career.

I think the world needs to start talking about our sector differently.  I happen to feel I’m having a greater impact on the lives of many more people doing my “non-profit thing” than some of my banker friends who “have arrived” because they are making huge paychecks.  Wouldn’t it make sense for us to swap salaries and I make the fat paycheck for changing the world? I’m speaking candidly, but we need to be bold about the work we are doing and the REAL change we are impacting.  To me it is not about dollars but it is about a respect for the work and not just from those of us within the sector.  If society placed the same value on real community change as it does on making a lot of money, I think more and more people would desire to work in our sector.

This change is community change. It is social change in the way our work is viewed by everybody.   As my friend and collaborator Ericka Hines says:

“That takes thinking about our work from a 35 k foot level, repackaging it and send it back to us.”

To this I say, let’s go to the mountain top and repackage it ourselves.

Quote of the Day

No secret to leadership, just lead. No secret to service, just serve.

Niecy Taylor

It Takes a Baby To Make a Man

Leonard Pitts – Syndicated Columnist

“…And – which is more – you’ll be a man, my son!” – from “If” by Rudyard Kipling

Lena had a fever.

It had spiked to 104 degrees and brought with it seizures, spasms of movement that terrified her parents. They called 911.

But paramedics could not reach their door; the epic blizzard raking greater Washington had rendered their hillside street impassable. So Lena’s parents bundled her up and walked her down. They rode with her in the ambulance through a city leached of color – no more vibrant reds, blues or greens, just the stark gray of the sky and the brilliant white of the snow.

Snow changes the world. It muffles sound, softens hard angles into graceful curves, drives people inside. Snow imposes a stillness. As they crossed this desolate new landscape, Lena’s parents had plenty of time to worry.

Thankfully, doctors were able to bring her fever down. But then, Lena’s parents realized a new problem; they were stranded at the hospital in a city that had ceased to move.  Worse, they were stranded without diapers and baby food., which, in their rush, they had left at home. Nor could they borrow any from the hospital, which said its own supplies were low. So Lena’s father had just one option.

I happened to catch him on his cell phone a few minutes later. His breathing was ragged and I asked him what was wrong. He was hiking through the storm – it was a mile or two to the nearest store, the snowdrifts already up to his knees – hoping it would be open and that it would have diapers and baby food for his 11-month-old daughter.

I have seldom been prouder of any of my children than I was in that moment of my first-born son.

We – and here, I mean both he and I as father and son and you and I as a society – have talked a lot in recent years about the meaning of manhood in an era of women ascendant and cracked glass ceilings.

Some of us insist that meaning is found in a man’s toughness, his imperviousness to slings and arrows and feelings like pain or love.  Some believe it is found in a man’s violence, his capacity to hit and kick with force, to shield and defend what matters to him.  Some argue that it is found in a man’s strength, his ability to lift and carry, to push and to break.

I’ve always felt none of those things matters unless they are in service to something that matters more. Like going for diapers in a horizontal snow.

I don’t mean to mythologize or overpraise something that is, after all, just a father’s duty. But it is hard not to feel a certain satisfaction when I consider how many fathers fail that duty, having been liberated from obligation by social mores that exact no price from the man who plants a garden, then disappears before the first sprouts show.

And when I wonder how many women were slogging through that same snowstorm, having bought into the lie that holds fathers as optional parents who contribute nothing to the family a determined woman can’t replicate.

And when I remember the times I preached exasperated sermons to that same son for posturing and preening like something he saw in a rap video, walking with an unearned swagger and acting as if this made him a man. Growing older has changed him. Lena, I think, has changed him more.

Owning responsibility for that vulnerable little life has forced him to reconsider manhood itself.

We used to have a saying: It takes a man to make a baby. I’m beginning to think that, at least for some of us, the opposite is true: it takes a baby to make a man.

Lena, by the way, is doing fine. I saw her the other day and, as usual, she climbed on me like a jungle gym. Then my son walked into the room and held out his arms. Lena forgot all about me. She grinned, both teeth on full display, and reached up for her dad.

Copyright, The Miami Herald; e-mail to lpitts@miamiherald.com

Sometimes You Must Lead in Order to Serve

A few days ago, Pastor Rick Warren made the following comment on Twitter that has had me thinking for the past few days.

“Everyone wants to be a leader.Few want to be a servant. God isn’t looking for servant leaders. He’s looking for servants.”

I didn’t retweet this post because I don’t agree with it. I did add it to my favorites as I pondered this idea of us being called to be servants, but yet I felt Pastor Warren was implying we weren’t called to be leaders.

In my opinion, leaders are born through service.  It has been my experience that anytime I agree to humbly serve, I seem to find myself in a leadership role or being viewed as a leader.  Perhaps it is my opinion and my experience that have me questioning Pastor Warren’s comment.

From a biblical standpoint, Jesus was the greatest example of a servant leader I can think of.  He humbly served to carry out His father’s will, but everywhere He went, people flocked to Him.  In fact, I believe He stood out so greatly because He was a leader who served.

I can only dream of a world where our leaders truly served.  If everyone who has committed their life to careers in public service actually approached their jobs as servant leaders, things like a basic human right to healthcare wouldn’t get stalled on the voting block.  Being a servant leader is an attribute that I admired about the then Senator Obama.  He seemed to be a natural born leader who understood the importance of service.

As we celebrate Black History Month, I can only thank God for the many servant leaders who led the way and fought for our civil rights.  I thank God that he called them to be servant leaders.

So to Pastor Warren I would say God is calling us to be servants and leaders.  He is calling us to be the salt of the earth and to serve everyone.  If we truly understand our purpose, we will know where He wants us to lead.