Just Lead the Way

by Charlotte Bennardo

Of the five traits, I think leadership is the hardest to be successful at. It demands that we step up to a challenge, step out of our comfort zone, and step into the unknown. It takes guts to convince people to do something, to put yourself out there, knowing there is a chance (sometimes a good one) that you'll fail. 

But I believe we all have it in us- if we feel the need is there. I live in a suburban neighborhood. The bus stop for our block and the next one over sits at the corner. Too many times drivers (young and old alike, certainly those who should have known better) zipped around the corner. When confronted the excuse was always the same: "Well, there's no stop sign. I don't have to stop." After one particularly harrowing experience where a former neighbor, speeding to get his child to daycare almost ran my kindergarten son and me over, I'd had enough. I called the town, the police, and the highway department about getting a stop sign put there. Of course I got the run around from every authority. I even offered to buy the sign, but was told, "Oh no, you can't do that." Did they really think I was going to be okay with letting my child, and all the others, stay in a dangerous situation? Hardly. It would have been easy to say "I tried" and I did, but I wasn't accepting defeat. 

I went right to the mayor. I pointed out that when a child got killed, it would be too late to do something then, and I would be the first to tell my story about how I petitioned for a stop sign but was turned down.

Here's my sign:

And, because I'd added that there was another intersection as dangerous just down the block, they put a sign there, too. My friends teased me saying I needed to get a sign in their neighborhood. (I don't know if any of them followed my example.)

There are opportunities for leadership everywhere, even if you're a kid. Think of Alexandra Scott, the young cancer victim who started a lemonade stand to help fight cancer. Today, Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation continues, even though she died. Think of Anne Frank, trying to keep up the spirits of everyone around her during the Nazi hunts. Everyone knows Helen Keller and how she became the world renowned advocate for the blind and deaf. Do you know about Yash Gupta, a 9th grader who started a foundation to donate used eyeglasses to kids in thir world countries who couldn't afford them? Or Kyle Freas, who wanted to help homeless, abused, and critically ill children and animals, and the Dallas Zoo, so he started the Youth Together Foundation. 

While ficitonal stories may be fun, the non-fiction stories about the people in our world who stood up and became leaders is far more fascinating- and inspiring. In your own town, you may know of a boy who uses his birthday money to buy food for someone. Or a girl who uses her sewing skills to make blankets for shelter dogs. 

If it's important, it needs to be done- and someone needs to lead the way. Why not you?


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