Moccasins a.k.a ‘Walk As One’
Oh Great Spirit, grant that I may never criticize my brother or my sister until I have walked the trail of life in their moccasins.
— Adapted from a Cherokee prayer
Empathy, understanding, and an aggressively nonjudgmental world outlook are essential attributes to leading social change. The metaphor of walking in the moccasins of another person before offering criticism is a remarkably useful leadership tool, as well as a moral imperative. As Robert F. Kennedy noted, “The task of leadership, the first task of concerned people, is not to condemn or castigate or deplore; it is to search out the reason for disillusionment and alienation, the rationale of protest and dissent – perhaps, indeed, to learn from it.”
Service is a common ground on which all people can come together to begin the work of building a more just society – work that depends on striving to truly understand one another. Service also is a powerful pathway for having our “moccasins” prayer answered: through the common ground of service, we can all walk in each other’s moccasins, and once exposed to the experiences of others, we are more likely to understand perspectives and points of view that are different, foreign, or even hostile to our own. It is essential that we learn to “moccasin” the world we encounter, to seek a broad inclusiveness in all endeavors, and to nurture a deep empathy within ourselves. Doing so generates wisdom, reconciliation, and social trust – vital elements for achieving human progress and lasting, positive social change.
Story Source: City Year’s Website
Love cannot remain by itself – it has no meaning. Love has to be put into action, and that action is service.
I slept and I dreamed that life is all joy. I woke and I saw that life is all service. I served and I saw that service is joy.
— Mother Teresa
For more than 45 years, Mother Teresa comforted the poor, the dying, and the unwanted around the world. Over the years, Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity grew from 12 to thousands, serving the “poorest of the poor” in 450 centers world-wide. She rescued homeless and dying people from the gutters and garbage dumps in Calcutta. Her work spread from Calcutta to New York to Albania, and she was one of the pioneers of establishing homes for people with AIDS.
Through her work, Mother Teresa was a living example of her belief that love is embodied, or given true form, through service. At its most powerful, service is an expression of selfless love, care, empathy, and concern for others. Although Mother Teresa encountered pain, sickness, and extreme poverty on a daily basis, she also taught that the path of service is the path of joy. Joy emerges from new experiences and new relationships that are built through service, from acknowledging the human dignity in all people, from feeling personally useful in the world, and from engaging in service as an act of love.
Story Source: City Year’s Website
Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.
— Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Drum Major Instinct
Ebenezer Baptist Church · Atlanta, Georgia · February 4, 1968
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s idea of greatness is neither elitist nor exclusive. Yet, at the same time, everyone is not automatically great. Rather, each person has the potential to achieve greatness because every person has something to offer and to contribute through service. Greatness is available to all through unselfish action fueled by unselfish motivation.
Dr. King sees the inherent dignity that every human being can achieve through service, a common meeting ground that requires no worldly credentials to enter. Service is a great equalizer that eliminates social division. If we truly believe that everyone can be great, then we must always remember to put this ideal into practice by assuming, finding, and appealing to the greatness in everyone. Everyone has something to offer, something to contribute, even if at first they do not know it, or we cannot see it.
Source: City year’s Website