Be the unconditional leader who illuminates the way
Some years ago, I was forced to take a bus in rural India during an exercise at Pokhran, Rajasthan, India, where military maneouvres were conducted. My vehicle broke down and there was no repair facility available in sight and we were stuck during the night. Out of nowhere this bus came as sigh of relief - our connection with the outer world. The life was dull and this bus on the desert track was slower than the snail. I along with my radio operator boarded the bus to reach the nearest road where some repair facility or telephone connectivity would be available to seek recovery assistance. The bus was filled with villagers who were getting back after a hard day tired, lost and hungry, people who were deeply irritated with life and taking it out on one another, or with the world itself. Two men barked at each other about a shove during a steep turn that might or might not have been intentional. A pregnant woman got on, and nobody offered her a seat and the same story was repeated with an old haggard man when he boarded the bus. Rage was in the air; no mercy only survival of the fittest.
But as the bus moved on, the conductor (ticket collector) moved around asking for tickets. He also spoke nicely to people on the bus urging them to stay calm. He spoke, 'Folks, I know you have had a rough day and you are frustrated. I can’t do anything about the hot weather or situation that you’ve been through, but here is what I can do. As each one of you gets off the bus, I will reach out my hand to you. As you walk by, drop your troubles into the palm of my hand, okay? Don’t take your problems home to your families tonight, just leave them with me. My route goes right by the canal and when I cross that place, I will throw your troubles in the water.'
This mere offering by the conductor uplifted the sagging spirits. Everyone was relaxed, faces gleamed with smile. People who have been pretending not to notice each other’s existence were all of a sudden grinning at each other like when you were being told a fairy tale by your grandma?
I was wondering whether he was serious or just fooling around as I didn’t have much experience in traveling through remote areas on a rag tag bus.
At the next stop, just as promised, the conductor reached out his hand, palm up, and waited. One by one, all the exiting commuters placed their hand just above his and mimed the gesture of leaving their worries into his palm. Some people laughed as they did this, some teared up but everyone did this ritual. The conductor repeated the same at the next stop, too. And the next. All the way through to the canal.
Now you must be wondering what’s with the story?
We live in a tough world, sometimes it is difficult to be a human being. Sometimes you have a bad day. Sometimes this bad day lasts for several years. You struggle and fail. You lose hope, spirit, life, jobs, money, friends, faith, and love. You witness unthinkable events unfolding and you become fearful and probably dry. There are times when everything seems covered in shadows. You hope for someone to help you with the light but don’t know where to find it or whom to approach for assistance.
But what if I told you why look far? You are the light, the very agent of illumination that a dark situation begs for. That’s what this bus journey taught me, that anyone can be the light, at any moment. This conductor wasn’t some big power player. He wasn’t a spiritual leader or some media-savvy influencer. He was a native with heart of gold, one of society’s most invisible workers. Yet he possessed the real power, and he used it beautifully for everyone’s benefit. Leaders are all around us but we need the vision to spot them.
When life feels down or out especially grim with all hopes lost, or when you feel particularly powerless in the face of the troubles that life has for you, just think of this man and ask yourself, if he could inspire and be the ray of hope, what can I do, right now, to be the light? Of course, you can’t personally find solutions to every problem, or solve global warming, but you can transform lives by your approach to fellow beings. You definitely can’t control where sun rises from or where the moon will set to, but you do have some influence on everyone you brush up against, to have a positive impact and add value.
No matter who you are, or where you are, or how mundane or tough your situation may seem, I believe you have the capacity to illuminate the world, transform lives in your own humble ways. We all have to take responsibility for the energy that we bring to the environment.
In fact, I believe this is the only way the world will ever be illuminated, one bright act of hope & kindness at a time, all the way to the canal.