Watching Drew Dudley’s TED Talk on ‘Everyday Leadership’ is probably the best spent six minutes I’ve spent in a long time. Immediately after, I began thinking of my own lollipop moment, a moment someone said or did something that fundamentally made my life better.
I was transported back to the eighth grade. After a whole summer of contemplating, I decided I was going to begin wearing my dastaar on the first day of school. I practiced all summer to get it exactly right, and although it was imperfect, it definitely looked more appropriate for a kid my age, more so than a patka or rumaal. But it was different, it was bigger, and I wasn’t fully comfortable with it. More so, I was nervous how others would react. Would it attract undue attention? Would people tease me? None of my friends had seen me in it before, would they still hang out with me? All these thoughts went through my head. I was hesitant, but I knew deferring to next year, when I started high school, would be even harder. I dreaded the first day of eighth grade, and soon enough it came.
I spent an hour that morning trying to get my dastaar just right, each attempt more frustrating then the last. And I waited until the very last minute to walk to the bus stop. Usually I would run in to some of the neighborhood kids on the way, but today, I could see everyone was already there. It was a cold September morning, but I was drenched in sweat. And with each step toward the bus stop, I wondered…was I really ready?
As soon as I approached the bus stop, an African American girl in my grade who I shared a few classes with the previous year quickly glanced at me and did a double take. And she yelled over, “Hey Rubin, nice turban” and went back to talking with her friends. Immediately, I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Turns out…in all the fears, worries, and disastrous scenarios that went through my head all summer – not once did I consider anybody would think my dastaar looked cool.
Throughout the day, I received many compliments, many questions, a few stares, and a few people laughed and made jokes…but I didn’t care…I was free. I had already gotten through the tough part. And I wasn’t going to let the negativity of a few get in the way of the positivity of so many…sometimes it’s like that for a Sikh.
So after watching this TED Talk, I thought a few things…
I thought I should let my former classmate know her encouraging words that day at the bus stop over 20 years ago got me through a tough time…we’re Facebook friends and I will do that as soon as I find a non-creepy way of doing so 🙂
I also thought of my sangat, and as we make commitments toward the Guru, some of them very physical and external, how important it is to provide that “lollipop moment” for one another.
I thought of the counselors at gurmat camp and the powerful role they play for our children. They have a tremendous opportunity to provide these transformative moments as well. My wife and I raise our children with the hopes that their source of courage and inspiration comes from somewhere deep within, and not rely on others for it, but at the same time, we cannot deny the impact on what a few encouraging words can do.
I thought about how I as a Sikh should be more aware of this “lollipop” concept, and how I should try to be a source of encouragement to anyone of any culture around me. Wouldn’t it be nice for someone to remember that 20 years ago a Sikh man or woman with a dastaar helped encourage them through a tough time?
But most of all, I thought about Dudley’s point about how he never remembered the event at all.
I’ve always believed this about Sikhi…that when we are living in simran, when we are connected with the Divine, there is no room for ego…all that’s left is love. And where there is love, the everyday leader comes out…so quietly, you hardly notice.