This year’s trip to Laromana was similar to past years – hard but rewarding.  Most often we go down with an aim to serve as well as an opportunity to give a little bit of ourselves, but usually the case is reversed – we most often receive more than we give.  The people of the Dominican Republic are simply beautiful – inside and out.  Regardless of what they have or don’t have, they maintain smiles that just never seem to end, eyes that reach into your soul, personalities that are endearing, and life lessons that are worth more than gold.

Each year I come home with more than I went down with. Something happens that re-grounds me and makes me thankful for having made the journey yet again.  There were many such moments this year – each that could provide a story in itself. But on Friday, the last work day on the construction site, my mind starting to turn to home and I thought of all of you and how blessed I am to have each of you in my life in one way or another.  I thought about going to church Sunday morning, work on Monday morning, or seeing many of you in the various aspects that we know each other  – and being blessed with seeing the smiles, eyes, and personalities of each of you – can there be a more beautiful group of people than those in our everyday lives?

We don’t necessarily have to travel thousands of miles to be blessed by a group of wonderful people.  We have such people in our lives day in and day out – I have those people in MY life day in and day out. On Friday morning at the construction site I started running back and forth pulling the rope through the pulley which hoisted the 80 pound bucket of sand up to the third floor.  With a shovel, a bucket, a rope and a wheel barrow we moved over 100 tons of sand bucket by bucket up three stories over the course of the week.  As I ran back and forth, back and forth, time and time again I lost count of the trips – usually it was 25 or 30 pulls and then someone would step in and take over.  But this morning we were all in a fog as our minds shifted to wrapping up the week and returning home and no one offered to take the rope.  I was too stubborn to ask for help, so instead opted to see how much time it would take for someone to consider how long I had on been on the rope and offer to take over.  Eventually I asked for relief but no one responded – each of us lost in our own little world of shoveling, moving the buckets, hooking the bucket to the pulley, emptying  it into the wheelbarrow, etc.  So I ran some more back and forth and thought about my co-workers at home – and possibly how it may relate to each of you – each one of us doing our own thing without thinking about how we may be able to make the job of those around us just a little easier.   I ran back and forth, back and forth and the story motivated me more and more. One person filled the bucket maybe one shovelful less – it felt like a break – I felt that I could have run the rope all day long with just that little less weight – but it was just by chance because the next bucket was back to 80 pounds and I started to fade a little more.  Just one shovelful less – just each of us looking and considering how we can lighten the load and make the lives around us just a little easier is all it often takes to accomplish more and provide even greater results.

Without surprise the first person to offer help was our group leader, Joe Plasse, problem was Joe already had a knee filled with fluid and it was now the size of a bowling ball as he awaited surgery when he got home.  So I declined his gracious offer and continued running the rope chuckling to myself and wondering who would snap out of their little day dream and offer to take over.  Again it was one of the leaders.  Greg Goforth, from three floors up, noticed the length of time I had been on the rope and came down to take over.

It’s not surprising that it was Joe and Greg that offered up when everyone else’s minds were elsewhere.  That’s what leaders do – they are always observing and considering the wellbeing of those around them to see that no one is pulling more than they can or should handle, as they also look for ways to lighten the load so that a task can be done over and over again without anyone getting fatigued sooner than necessary.

The truth is that each of us is a leader in one facet or another – and there are few things more beneficial than each of us beefing up our own personal leadership skills.  We all have areas that we can improve on and be more cognizant of how our actions impact others or how small changes in what we do can lighten the load and allow others to run the rope for a longer period of time.  It boils down to consideration and responsibility to and for those around us – it is the foundation for the most powerful form of leadership – servant leadership.

As I look around and consider our loan department, I see the most wonderful group of people – a group I wouldn’t trade for the world.   But I see times when each of us has our minds wrapped around the task in front of us and in doing so we are shortsighted as to how those around us may be fatiguing under a weight that maybe we can lighten with just small changes to our own process.  There are times we pass on files to the next person that aren’t as complete as they could be adding weight to the process instead of lightening the load.  Or often the file hasn’t been thoroughly reviewed and understood as well as it should be and bogs down the process while adding that extra shovel of sand to the bucket of the next person.

We can all be a little better can’t we? We can all consider how our actions will either add weight to others or lighten their burden.  Our ultimate goal is to offer greater service to others whether it’s our customers, family members, friends or those we serve in various other capacities.  But almost always being considerate, compassionate, and responsible, i.e. demonstrating strong personal leadership skills, to those we are in the trenches with – is the means to the end.

Just maybe taking a step back long enough to consider and appreciate the smiles, eyes, personalities, and wonderful traits of all of those who make up our daily lives and committing to taking care of each of them is all that is needed to bring our service to others to a whole new level.  It sure is good to be home sharing some thoughts with all of you – some of the most beautiful people in the world.