Tough times call for resiliency, sticking together

  • Mon Feb 15th, 2010 9:26pm
  • Life

By Sarri Gilman Herald Columnist

I was sitting in a class recently, a leadership class, listening to a local superintendent share some of the current challenges his school district is facing.

For a moment I let myself stand in his shoes. How would it be to have to lay off talented, dedicated and inspiring teachers? How would it be to watch struggling students in overcrowded classrooms not get the help they need?

How would it be to deal with facilities in poor repair, old buses, staffers who are underpaid, students who are frustrated, everyone needing more? How would it be to know that you are trying to do the most important job in the nation, educating our next generation, without adequate resources?

We are all cutting our teeth on some big challenges these days. There is no business, no family, no school, no part of our economy that is immune.

The inspiration is not in the problem, and frankly, it’s not even in the solution. For me, the inspiration is in the honesty and the way we are able to talk about things. It is our ability to know what is worth talking about that I find engaging.

I’ve heard enough canned speeches, enough scripted messages, enough sound bites, enough nonsense, to last me a lifetime. I’ve watched people who have the privilege of an audience mistreat the intelligence and humanity of their listeners again and again with sound bites and scripts.

As I listened to the superintendent, I was touched by his honesty, his courage, his ability to keep moving forward though things are so difficult. He was finding a way to progress, a path, in spite of what he was facing.

These difficult times are somehow made better by people who can speak from their hearts. The superintendent was speaking from his heart.

I cannot tolerate leaders who offer meaninless messages, making our community dialogues seem small or worthless. Those are not leaders for tough times.

As we all sit in the cheap seats and watch the politics played in Washington, D.C., it is appalling how just how truly leaderless we are as we face the greatest difficulties. Not only do we not have financial reserves for tough times, we don’t have the leadership reserves.

Goodness gracious, I guess we have been too busy watching television to cultivate the human capital of our country.

I have been profoundly changed by these tough times. I realize that we all have changed. I have come to recognize my values in a deeper way. I realize that I could be improving, continuously improving, how to live my way into my values, and how to champion others as they live their way into theirs.

I am reminded by the superintendent’s talk to speak from the heart, not to fear being unpopular or not liked. I think we can stomach the truth, or the many truths, and deal with hard realities.

We are resilient, and that resiliency is supported by our willingness to stand kind of naked before each other.

Sarri Gilman is a freelance writer living on Whidbey Island and director of Leadership Snohomish County. Her column on living with meaning and purpose runs every other Tuesday in The Herald. You can e-mail her at