A few years ago I went on an alternative break with 15 dedicated students. Residents welcomed us with genuine interest in getting to know us. We laughed a lot around the dining table. We told stories of family and faith and struggle and triumph. Our lives are filled with much similarity over the really big questions in life—faith and family, health and the hope for a better life for our kids. Amidst the laughter and joy we listened and also learned about struggle, real struggle, not our kind of struggle.
I came to conclude that every really strong community has a hero or a heroin, a champion of a cause. Someone that people look to, especially in tough times. I met Lupita on my initial visit. Lupita brings hope to her community with her relentless energy and hope. She is an effective leader. She carries her community when they need it. She is at her best when others are down.
We became close friends and I have visited twice since. I know her better now. She is determined and she has a vision for her community. She commented one night over dinner that she sees her role as casting a vision, motivating others (especially younger citizens), encouraging creativity, allowing people to take risks, and making sure anyone that steps up and becomes involved is also accountable. In response, I told Lupita about how we talk a lot about leadership at W&M. She was intrigued and pleased. She told me that she learns most and best when she practices. I promise Lupita that I will carry her message with me. We must practice leadership.