Guest blogger Ryann England writes about leaders in action – putting love in action. The story written is based on the characters of Winnie the Pooh, written by A.A. Milne.
Last Saturday morning, I traversed through a birch tree forest. The enchantment of speckled white wood and shimmers of yellowed leaves drew me from my path until I lost sight of the trail. In a panic, I searched around until I heard a little voice that stopped me in my tracks.
“Oh, why hello there,” said the voice. My head swiveled around to find the source of the noise, “Down here” it beckoned. As I scanned down to my feet, I saw a small yellow bear looking up at me. He dawned a gentle face and a red t-shirt two sizes too small to cover his broad belly. “Are you a Heff- a Heff -a Heffalump?” said a little pig peering out from behind the bear’s shadow. “No,” I replied as I wondered at the creatures before me. “Well, you certainly aren’t Christopher Robin,” says Pooh. “No,” I said through a chuckle. “I am not Christopher Robin. I’ve just gone for a walk to clear my head, but I seem to have lost my way. Do you know how to get back to the path?” “No,” said Pooh, “but a Tigger never gets lost. We can ask him.” “Could you please show me the way?” “Certainly,” replied Pooh Bear.
As we walked through meandering groves and sun-dried thickets, Piglet timidly emerged from behind the shadow of Pooh. Piglet was still not entirely sold on my status as a certified non-Heffalump, but a question was bothering her, demanding resolution. “W-why exactly does one clear their head?” she stammered. “Rabbit says I need more in my head.” Said Pooh. I stood silent for a moment, unsure of how to explain an action so simple that it often goes without explanation. I told her that the world beyond the Hundred Acre Woods is fraught with complications. In the woods, it is easy to care for others and live gently. In the outside world, things are much more complicated; you have to balance ambition, responsibility, and compassion. I explained to Piglet that when life is easy, it is easy to love others. I needed to clear my head of judgments, bias, and fear so I could find my path back to a life lived in the service of others.
We continued to hike, as Piglet and Pooh digested this new knowledge. Breaking the silence, Piglet asked, “How do you spell love?” before I could answer Pooh chimed in, “You don’t spell it Piglet, you feel it.” I was astonished, I recognized that love in action is not something you plan; it’s not a currency of the future that one should frugally save and share once they reach success. Love is an essential ingredient in life and leadership.
Although we were soon within sight of Tigger’s home, Pooh sensed the sweet scents of honey wafting through the air and implored that we stop. After all, “What could be more important than a little something sweet to eat?” said pooh. Upon reaching his home, Pooh was quite startled to find his honey pot missing. He searched high and low, but rather than panic, he hopefully and happily bumbled about his many shelves and boxes. I asked Pooh if he was worried, he replied, “One of the great advantages of being disorganized is that one is always having surprising discoveries.” Within a few moments, Pooh found the honey and served tea to myself and Piglet before diving into his own meal. While we sat and ate, I marveled at Pooh. The silly bear did not see his mistake as a negative reflection of himself but as a mere bump in the road. In the same situation, I would still be beating myself up over misplacing the honey rather than enjoying my time at the table.
Soon we started on our way to Tigger’s home when suddenly the earth below our feet shook. Piglet and I shuddered, while pooh fumbled around with his head now stuck in his honey pot. Just as Pooh became unglued from his meal, we realized Tigger was the culprit of the earth’s mysterious movement. “Bouncy trouncy flouncy pouncy fun fun fun” Tigger shouted as he hoped our way. “Hello, Tigger”, I yelled. He approached us, still bouncing up and down. “Hello, Hello Pooh Bear, Hello Piglet,” Tigger exclaimed. We described my current predicament and that we needed his help to find the trail. “Of course, I can show you the way. A Tigger never gets lost!” shouted a not so humble Tigger. We began to follow Tigger in a rambling line when Pooh looked up at me and said, “Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.” Yet again, I was dumbfounded by this silly little yellow bear, as he unwittingly lived the qualities of leadership better than anyone I ever knew. Rather than disregard my request for directions, he humbly recognized his own limits and sought help. I was reliant on Pooh, but rather than reminding me of this, he implored me to be neither a follower nor a leader but only his friend. Leaders see the value of everyone in their communities. We were equals, we were friends helping each other in a quest for good outcomes.
As we neared the end of the One-Hundred Acre Woods, it was time to say goodbye to my new friends. They taught me far more than directions. They taught me how to put love into action. Upon saying goodbye, Pooh said, “How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”