Leading by Example
“It doesn’t matter if I’m not the one who caused the mess, if I’m there, and I can do something about it, I will.”
A couple of Sundays ago, as I was finishing my day I was exhausted. Sundays start at 8:30 am for me. I work out and do my morning routines. Then I go to the studio and train and then teach for about 4 or 5 hours. Then I answer emails and finish up this newsletter. Sundays are always a lot of work and long days. I love my work but it does take a toll on me. And so by the end of the night, my only thought is going home and eating.
As I was locking up the studio, I got excited. I started salivating at the thought of going home to eat and relax. Almost immediately, I slumped in disappointment – I had no food at home. But I went downstairs to the grocery store. I was still a little frustrated and annoyed with myself because I didn’t plan ahead. The junk food looked so tempting but that’s not how I’m living life now. And that meant that I have to buy things to cook. But my ADHD superpower helped me as I started imagining the great things I was going to cook and I was smiling again as I wrapped up my shopping.
As I was leaving the grocery store I thought “I am home free!” I was about to take the escalator but I stopped myself. My rule is that if I have a choice between the stairs and the escalator, I have to take the stairs. It is the small decisions that help me be just a bit healthier. So I retraced my steps and took the stairs.
And immediately my mood shifted again. I was tired, sore, hungry and bitter. I was muttering things like “stupid stairs” under my breath. And berating myself for not shopping earlier. Honestly, I was just complaining and being a baby. And I’m proud to say I caught it. So I was smiling as I reached the top of the stairs.
Then out of the corner of my eye, I saw a discarded blue face mask. Someone had left it on the stairs. Everybody was ignoring the mask and walking around it. But I could not ignore it for some reason. And it frustrated me and my thought was “okay, just go pick it up and throw it out.” And I pushed that thought away because I wanted to go home and eat. Plus I did not want to touch some gross mask and potentially catch COVID. So I walked away.
I only made it about 20 steps. I sighed, put down my groceries and walked back to the mask. I treated the mask as if it was a piece of evidence from CSI. I walked around the mask, not wanting to touch it. Then I got down on my knees like I was examining the evidence and not wanting to contaminate the crime scene. Finally, I picked up the discarded mask with my fingernails and threw it into the trash.
Then I grabbed my groceries and was able to go home. I proceeded to wash (disinfect?) my hands for a very long time. Which meant I had a lot of time to think about why I couldn’t walk away from the discarded mask. And I realized it was a great lesson a friend taught me about four years ago. I was driving and about to pull into the parking lot when my friend suddenly told me to stop. I hit the brake so hard that we were both a little jolted. She jumped out of the car and ran in front of it. About four feet away there was a discarded pizza box. She picked it up, bent it over her knee, threw it in the trash and jumped back in the car and said “Okay, let’s go now.”
I was astonished. “I will not go. That was weird. What was that about?”
She looked at me like I had two heads and I was the fool. “There was a pizza box there. Nobody picked it up. I’m here. So why not me?”
That has stuck with me to this day. That little example. What it taught me is that whenever we go out into the world, it matters how we show up. It matters especially on a long and hard day. If we show up with integrity and grace and kindness to ourselves and others wouldn’t the world be a better place?
And I smile as I write this because I know we are all important. All of our lives. Wherever you are, what you do matters because you can give people hope. You can give people a great example of how to take care of the earth or others. And so this week, I’m just showing up with integrity and love and kindness in the way I treat others and myself. It’s important because I know others are watching and I want to lead by example.
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