Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: leadership

Am I brave?

Where is my center?
The one thing that matters
Above all else

What is truth?
Not what I see with my eyes
But enact in my life

Brave
I want to be brave again
I think

Yesterday’s bravery looks on
With bated breath
Was it for real or not?

Since childhood
I’ve prepared for this moment
Without a map

Now I’m a grown-up
Battle-worn and wondering
Can I do this again?

I don’t generally think of myself as a brave woman. Determined? Yes. But not brave.

My life has been a series of interruptions by men. Some were accustomed to taking over and talking over others. They seemed to be the truly brave players on the scene. People like my father, my first boss, some male pastors with whom I’ve worked, male teachers and professors, male board members, presidents, vice-presidents and colleagues. Sometimes male students.

They seemed to sound ‘brave,’ if not always wise. At best I might have called myself ‘disciplined.’ But even that sounds weak. Especially now, in a world reeling from a dearth of true bravery. The kind that moves ahead without knowing how this is going to end. Without hanging onto ‘power over’ other people. Without the need to prove something personally, or make sure this turns out right.

Most Christian churches with majority white members are likely in need of brave leaders. I’m not an official church leader. I’m a retired theologian. Nonetheless, it’s time to step up. Time to become brave yet again. This time without apology or fear of what people may think about me.

There’s too much at stake to put my trust in niceness, or even in making sure I’ve gotten every word in the right place, spoken or written in the right way, at the right time.

I’ve begun reading Brenda Salter McNeil’s Becoming Brave: Finding the Courage to Pursue Racial Justice Now. I’ll say more about it in a later post. It’s a great read so far.

Thanks for visiting and reading. On another note, my poem, Haunted, has been published in a South Georgia newspaper. In addition, my primary care physician asked for it–to use in a small discussion group the practice has begun.

Cheers!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 17 October 2020
Image found at StarTribuneBaltimore.com

A letter to our Creator

Dear Creator of this World, though not the creator of its craziness,

I have a dilemma, so I’m bringing it to You. Hoping for a little light, as one of many followers of Your Son Jesus of Nazareth.

I’m to pray for those in official authority over me. In particular, those who have responsibility for governing this nation. Important people such as the President of the United Sates, the governor of Pennsylvania, Senators and those who serve in Congress at state and national levels.

The easiest way to pray is that they will rule wisely, with special consideration for the poor, widows, orphans, refugees and others who struggle to make it from one day to the next.

This way of praying has always worked for me before. Yet today I feel compelled to pray in a different way, and for different leaders in our country and abroad.

For example, I feel compelled to pray daily for officials who run nonprofit organizations. The kind that help pick up the pieces and make ends meet. It seems our current government has abdicated too much of its responsibility toward those with the least resources, while also lining the pockets of the wealthy who already have way more than enough.

Here’s something else. I’m also tempted to pray against some of the officials I’m exhorted to pray for. In fact, it seems that the only way to pray for some of them is to pray against them. If the goal is to have wise decisions that serve us well, perhaps it’s time to pray that certain plans will fail. Or that those who create these plans will get caught in the traps they set for others.

Finally, as You already know, our President has dismissed, mocked and denigrated women who come forward to tell the truth about powerful men who made their lives nightmares. He also seems to get away with his loose talk and loose living, and with abdicating his responsibility to lead this nation.

Tomorrow is Sunday, and I’ll probably be in church. We always pray for those who govern us. I know good national leadership is good for all of us, to say nothing about the rest of the world. Still, I feel the need to pray against some who govern us, and to pray for those who have the courage to stand up and be counted on the side of truth.

One more thing. I don’t see or hear Jesus of Nazareth holding back in his assessment of political and religious leaders of his day. And, as noted above, I want to follow in Jesus’ footsteps.

Please advise.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 5 January 2018
Image found at englishforschools.wordpress.com

Dear Mr. Trump,

I woke up today wanting you to know that I’m praying for you, and how I’m praying for you. Hence this open letter.

As I see it, we have two kinds of leaders in the USA: those elected to office, and those who elect them. Clearly, given your electoral college votes, you won the vote, and were duly sworn in last January as President of the United States.

We, as unelected citizens, are also leaders. Did we not go to the polls and exercise our guaranteed right to lead by casting our votes? No matter who wins the election, we citizens lose if we vote carelessly or not at all, assuming we’re given a fair opportunity. We also lose if we fall back into apathy or cynicism and wait things out. Or try to take things into our own hands.

As a follower of Jesus, I am exhorted to pray you as the President of the USA. I can’t say ‘my’ President, because you serve all of us.

As our President, you have visible power and office. That means you have access to your executive pen, the bully and praise pulpit, the power to hire and fire designated people, and a stage that magnifies your voice far beyond what it would be if you were not President of the USA.

As President, you might be tempted to think you’re in control, or that you can change or ignore situations to your liking. Or at least do what you can to make things more comfortable for you and yours. You might also want people to like you. Especially the people to whom you made promises. You might even hope for some to hate and fear you.

And so I pray for you the way I pray for myself as a citizen leader. I pray you and I will let go of our desires for power and control, esteem and affection, safety and survival, and especially the desire to change situations not in our control. The most important thing you can do is lead well, as the follower of Jesus you say you are. Which would be the most important thing I can do, as well.

Right now, even though it’s stormy, you’re a mighty visible oak. Still, tree rot often begins on the inside. Then one day, often without warning, the mighty visible oak crashes to the ground, often taking with it trees close to the mighty oak.

Gone. Not with a whimper, but with a resounding earthquake that travels to the other side of the world and back, creating tsunamis and chaos in its wake.

I like to think of us citizens and residents of the USA as tiny acorns that survive. Not all of us will make it. But the future does lie with us, doesn’t it? Which is why I can’t pray for you alone.

Please know that we’re trying to make as much sense of life as we can, hoping and praying you will grow into your office one day at a time, one step at a time. No matter the cost to your personal comfort or reputation. Which is what it means to follow Jesus.

Respectfully,

Elouise Renich Fraser

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 21 September 2017
Photo taken by DAFraser, 11 September 2017, Longwood Gardens Meadow
Response to Daily Prompt: Mighty

Beautiful Leaders

I love beauty. I have a sense of proportionality and space. Depth and lighting. I also believe lives can be beautiful. Not perfect, but beautiful. With a sense of proportionality and space. Depth and lighting. Especially, but not only, over a longer time.

Today is Wednesday. It’s only two days before it happens–the event so many thought would never happen. Mr. Trump will take the oath of office and become President of the United States of America.

As noted in The Rift, we are not united. Not even against a common enemy, much less around a respected if not universally well-liked leader.

Part of me wants to scream. Another part wants to run and hide. Yet another wants to move to another country. And where would that be? I haven’t a clue. I just know this event in two days will be the beginning.

Of what? I haven’t a clue. Nor am I ready to say I’m giving Mr. Trump the benefit of the doubt. I’ve already seen and heard a great deal over a lengthy, protracted, wearying presidential race. Or was it a slog?

Whatever it was, it gave me enough input to squelch any idea that two days from now we will somehow turn a page and start writing a brand new book.

Will it have proportionality? What kind? When I skim through the chapters will I find depth and beauty? Will there be a sense of proportional justice, opportunity and access for each and every one of us?

I’m not naïve. I don’t look for perfection. I do, however, look for patterns of attitude, behavior, speech and yes, facial expressions. Also for concrete signs of empathy joined with rigorous attempts to name and address major rifts that run through our nation and our global community.

In short, I look for Beauty. The kind that’s found in leaders who know how to be human, humane, thoughtful, unthreatened by facts or other opinions, clear, honest, perspicacious and humble. The kind who don’t like to take the spotlight because they’re busy turning the spotlight on all the people who helped them succeed.

I don’t put my trust in Mr. Trump. Nor do I hope for Someone Out There who will appear suddenly and save us all from our worst fears.

I do, however, hope and pray daily for each of us. I pray that we will become Beautiful Leaders within our own small circles of family, friends and coworkers. Furthermore, I’m challenging myself and you to step up and show up no matter what happens next. As the beautiful person you are in God’s eyes.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 18 January 2017
Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Aesthetic

The Dean and I | My Best Boss

DSCN2126

Langdell Hall, Harvard Law School

What was it about this man who made such a deep impression on me? I tried making some lists. I didn’t throw them away, but I wasn’t happy with them. They’re too cerebral. So I’m going with my gut on this one.

Here’s what I would say to Mr. Griswold today. Granted, I’ve had decades to think about it. Yet only now, after writing about the Dean and I, have I begun to appreciate our relationship.

#1. You were my best Boss ever.
Of all the bosses I’ve had, you were the best. I never told you about my first Boss, and you never asked. I’ll just say that your ways of being Boss were very different. The rest of my talking points highlight several ways you stand out as the best.

#2. You didn’t have issues with women.
I never cringed or felt pressured to humor you by demeaning myself or laughing at other people.  You were more than a decent man. You were a decent human being, part of the human race. Not a superior being who needed to put other people down to feel powerful. There were no bad jokes about women, or other unwanted behavior. Do you know how rare this is? I do.

#3.  You demanded a lot from me, yet you didn’t sweat my mistakes.
I didn’t feel shamed or laughed at. Nor did I fear for my job. You knew more than how to run the Harvard Law School; you knew how to run the office! You were a practical, experienced realist who wasn’t afraid to make your own mistakes and learn from them. Given my up and down history with male bosses, this impresses me.

#4. You combined personal humility with fierce professional resolve.
You didn’t take personal credit for the good, and you didn’t back off from making difficult decisions. That’s because it was never all about you. It was about where we were going and how we would get there together. In the office, not just in the law school. You were uneasy with the limelight; I liked that. It let me know that’s OK in a leader.

#5. Did you know you were my mentor?
You were. I didn’t think about you that way, but I believe it’s true. You didn’t tell me how to run an office. You showed me how you did it. You took things as they came, with calm thoughtfulness. This sometimes went against the atmosphere in the office or in the law school. I’d like to think I learned a little about that from you.

#6. Best of all, you wrote me that letter!
You didn’t just say kind words in front of other people, or sign a greeting card. And you didn’t dictate the letter to a secretary who typed it up for you to sign. You took time to hand-write it. Just for me. Not for my file or for a future employer. Just for me! No letter I’ve ever received from an employer comes close to yours.

Several times during my professional life I needed that letter. Not to show others, but to remind myself of what you saw in me. Even though I didn’t always pull it out to read, I think it was there in my subconscious, not just in my treasure box. A good antidote to other letters I received uninvited and threw away.

Right now I’m remembering you at your stand-up desk every evening, making sure you’ve written all those personal thank-letters to donors, or added your signature and a little note on other letters. The personal touch. That’s what it was all about. Relationships of mutual trust and appreciation. Kind words, always truthful. Thank you for inviting me to be part of your life. You were a blessing I never expected.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 20 April 2015

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