“Be the person who others will gladly and confidently follow.”- John C. Maxwell
My initial thoughts on leadership were obtained from my family, school teachers, pastor, church elders, Sunday school teachers, family friends, Girl Scout leaders, and gym coaches.
Mother said, “That during the first two years of my life that I did not speak, and that suddenly one day I just started talking.” Mother wonder how could any toddler keep his or her mouth closed for two years. I told her, “That Albert Einstein did not speak the first three years of his life.” I think that I was trying to figure out where I fit in or what was going on between my mother and father. When father was losing an argument with mother, he would just say, “Be quiet.” To be quiet and listen, I learned early, that was very important. If you are a good listener and observer, one will learn. Father’ s words always seemed to have more power with them.
While toddlers, my brother and I were highly curious about everything especially father’s shaving and medicine cabinet. Junior was a great climber, and I was not far behind. Junior wore glasses at an early age. I really believe that fathers shaving equipment was edible, but I was only one or two years of age. I learned early that a razor blade was not edible. My brother and I were so active that we taught mother how to keep up with us. There was no time for depression. My brother and I also liked to eat our desserts before our meat and vegetables when father was not around. I heard that we would spit our meat and vegetables out on ourselves and her. My blood iron level dropped low, and I was in the hospital for two weeks. The German doctor was upset with mother, but he didn’t know how inexperienced she really was with children. My mother didn’t really know what a blood iron level meant at that time. She didn’t know that a person could die from severe low blood levels of iron. My grandmother never allowed her daughters to babysit newborns. But mother has always been able to learn fast. I am sure one toddler and a baby crying kept mother on her toes. My mother was not happy when father was station in Germany. Father liked to go to the clubs with his friends on Friday and Saturday nights. Mother didn’t have a church family in Germany. Mother frequently took us to visit a park that was close by to the housing quarters so that my brother and I could play.
I heard father and mother talking about me going to kindergarten. Father wanted to know if I would be able to walk to school by myself. Mrs Davis’s Kindergarten was about one mile from our house. Father walked with me for the first three days. After that, he observed me from a distance, but I was unaware that he was watching me. I was a serious walker. I was not afraid to walk to school alone. Mother could not walk me to school because I had two younger sisters at home. I enjoyed kindergarten. I remember learning my alphabet, numbers and singing songs with the entire class. It was a good time for me. I liked being around the other children.
My first grade teacher, Ms. Connelly made quite an impression on me. She said, “That I could be whoever I wanted to be in life as long as I studied hard and did my very best in school. I knew making good grades was an important activity, early. Ms. Connelly would look at everyone in the class while we were working on our lesson. She would look at me, smile, and blink one of her eyes. I knew that she really liked me, appreciated my hard work and seriousness about my studies. She told the class, ” If we work hard and completed all our class assignments that we would have have the best holiday class parties, and we did. My mother also liked Ms. Connelly. Ms. Connelly was like a second mother to me. Ms. Connelly was the person, who discovered that I was very nearsighted and needed glasses. I could not see the blackboard from the second row from the back, and she told me to move to a desk up front and sit. She helped to make my world clearer. My parents took me to get my eyes checked and purchased glasses for me. I will always love Ms. Connelly. She taught me what it takes to be successful, and what a leader does. She was always polite and kind. The children always listen to her. She stress the importance of completing class assignments. Our classroom was always clean and organized. Her hair, clothes and shoes were always perfect. I will never forget those autumn floral dresses that she wore. Her dresses were very pretty.
My third grade teacher taught me that learning many new words and reading a great many books on different subjects was extremely important. I was a part of the SRA program at that time. I learned about speed reading early. There was much competition in the class as to how many books the students were reading, and how many book reviews were being completed. I tried to read a paperback book every night before sleeping. I was always asking my mother to order books for me through school booklist sources.
Father was in the military and his family traveled to various military posts with him. We stayed in military housing. I use to observe how my mother and father interacted with personal friends also business associates. My parents were very good listeners, polite and concerned for others. As a couple, they had a few personal challenges like most couples. Mother had been raised in a pentecostal type environment, but I don’t think father knew exactly what that meant.
While growing up, I always viewed males as being more calm in problem situations than women. Women seem to show more emotions than men. I never saw a man crying or showing extreme emotion. I also always had an natural respect for older persons. Father never appeared weak. I knew that father had a very bad stomachache only one day in his life. I remember telling him “That I didn’t think that he could be sick and that he should be at work.” Fathers were not suppose to be ill. Those were my fifth grade thoughts.” Father looked at me and smile and went back to work. I did not want to miss going to the commissary with my parents at the end of the month. I just never believed as a child that my father could get sick or die. I never thought about being without father or mother.
As a child, I defined leadership of parents as being able to take care of family’s needs, handle problems, helping others, paying bills on time, staying within budget, eating every evening meal with entire family, making an adequate grocery list for thirty days, good meal planning for thirty days, good organization and order in the house, a daily bath for all, polishing the funiture daily, making sure all washing and ironing was completed every Saturday, vacuuming carpet daily, mopping kitchen floors weekly, adhering to strict bed times and maintaining a dust, insect and rat free environment. The major vision, goals and objectives of future were not elaborated very much to elementary children. Father wanted his children to learn by his example. He believe that one could work his or her way to success. Father believe a man should work six days a week. Father would take only one vacation week off each year to visit his mother. Father believe that it was good for a man to be working as much as possible. My parents wanted us to make good grades, complete assign chores and be obedient to them. Bad grades were frowned upon.
My parents were able to recognize and appreciate talent. I had a talent for studying, making good grades, baking cakes and singing early.
Mother believe that going to church was very important. Also I love attending church although I did not understand everything that was being said by the pastor. I believe that being a part of a church service was serious activity and important. Some women cried at church. And of course there was that one funeral that I attended at age five. Not long after that I wanted to get baptized because I wanted to go to heaven if I died. I was told “That I had to choose to be good and do good in order to be admitted into heaven and believe in Jesus Christ. A year later, I did suffer very much after I ate whole bag of Oreo cookies without mother’s permission. I really got very close to God. I thought that I could possibly die from diarrhea at the age of 7. I promised God,”That I would never do anything bad again if I lived through that experience.” It’s hard fighting a chocolate addiction.
In short, my parents were in charge of everything that concerned me. Father had the final word over all. My parents always felt that there was an old woman living in my body. Father said, “That I had the ways of an old woman.” I was a good listener, liked to ask many questions and learn many new things daily. My Father bought a good encylopedia set, and it was excellent reading material for a child in grade school. I had to look up the meaning of many words. Father did not like to answer all my why questions when he stepped on my mother’s heart. Father believe that a person who asked too many questions must not be well, but I still like to ask the why questions.
I felt early, that I was on top of the world when father put me in charge of the alarm clock at age 7. I was responsible for waking everyone up in the morning. I did not take that chore lightly. I loved to assume responsibilities for tasks. I also assumed some of the care of my younger sisters at the age of seven because mother felt rather weak after her home childcare services for friends. Also watching three hours of soap opera shows daliy was emotionally draining on her. those I loved to brush, comb and style my two younger sisters’ hair. I also like to carry my baby sister around sometimes. I had strong muscles although I was skinny therefore her weight didn’t bother me much. Mother always thought that I had unusual strength while growing up. She told me “That I took that from my father. Mother was strong too, but too shy and feminine to admit it.
My mother seemed to me to be like an angel that dropped down from heaven. I wanted to be like her. She was a good role model and very pretty. But she had her hidden fears. She didn’t like thunder storms or tornadoes, but I gather from the TV news that these were dangerous things and most people were afraid of them. I always believe that Father God would take care of the big things. I just did not have fears that bad things would happen to me or my family. Mother was also a little nervous about driving. Mother was a country young woman from Mississippi. Mother seemed to like learning new things, and so did I. Our interests were very similar especially concerning Girl Scout activities. I later found out that mother wanted to be a part of the activities that her daughters liked, but all of our likes were not necessarily her top interests. I knew that she had a strong interest in sewing clothes, also loved looking at catalogs and watching the soap operas. Mother also had a lovely prayer book that she loved to read at bedtime. Sometimes, I would lightly pinch my mother’s skin. I was really testing to see if she was really human. Her skin felt like marsh mellows. She didn’t have muscles like me. When I was very young, she seem to me to be like an angel.
As my siblings and I aged in the family, we were given more responsibilities, chores and opportunities for learning and fun. Father was trying to develop us into leaders and encouraged scholastic achievements with my involvement in Girl Scout activities and my brother’s involvement in football activities. But father did not like teams that had a string of losses nor did he accept my idea that he should volunteer to be a coach on my brother’s team. My brother’s team was losing very much. Father believe that Junior, in some way, should have been able to deliver the team into triumph. If father would have practiced football with Junior more, the situation might have been different. I always had good ideals. I was the fastest runner in sixth grade. I was clocked at running a hundred yards at 13.1 secs. I was one second faster than the fastest boy in sixth grade. Football has always been an exciting game for me. I love to run with the ball and make a touchdown. Girls were not allowed to play school football in 1969. In the home backyard, there was no discriminations, and anyone could play football, baseball, kickball, volley ball or tennis. Father was quite competitive when it came to playing games. He was the best playmate. He could play any game well. He had been a heavy weight boxer on the Army boxing team in Germany in the late 1950’s, and he was a great wrestler.
Father encourage us to be independent, hardworking and to trust in power of praying. Mother stressed keeping everything neat, clean and organized. These skills denoted mental stability and balance to her. My mother also believed in the power of praying. We were taught that God is the ultimate judge of everything not man.