Be the One: Serve
In life, it’s not what happens to you, but what happens in you and through you that counts. When adversity visits your life, you have two choices: to be a victim or to be a victor. Victims allow life circumstances to get them down, and they spend their lives asking others to redress the grievances life has dealt them. Victims are needy and demand to be served. Victors, on the other hand, rise above the challenges they encounter. They rebound from life’s hardships with newfound strength, and they use their strength in service of those around them.
A Train of Tragedy
Juliette Magill Kinzie Gordon was born in 1860 to a wealthy family in Savannah, Georgia. Far from the typical Southern belle, Juliette was willful and tomboyish, always in search of adventure. She was the type of person never to be caught sitting still; she enjoyed trying new things and traveling new places.
In her mid-twenties, the first of a series of misfortunes struck Juliette. Suffering from chronic earaches, she sought medical care, but doctors mistreated her. As a consequence, Juliette lost the majority of her hearing in one ear. The following year, Juliette was married, but as she and the groom exited the ceremony a grain of rice, tossed by a well-wisher, lodged in her good ear. While attempting to remove the grain, a doctor punctured her eardrum, and Juliette lost hearing in her second ear.
For someone who enjoyed an active lifestyle, deafness could have been devastating, but Juliette persevered. She moved to her husband’s estate in England where she became a favorite in social circles. Her humor and vivacity made her a sought-after guest and celebrated hostess.
However, Juliette soon crossed paths with tragedy again. Her husband’s alcohol abuse and infidelity contributed to the gradual decline of their relationship, and in the middle of divorce proceedings, Juliette’s husband died from a stroke. To make matters worse, he bequeathed his substantial estate to his mistress rather than giving it to Juliette.
Choosing to Get Up Rather Than Give Up
Having lost her hearing, her husband, and her home, you would have expected Juliette to feel bitter and victimized. However, at this very point in her life, she chose to serve. Somehow, she moved past her own tragic circumstances to see the good she could do for others.
Having befriended Sir Robin Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts, Juliette became intrigued by the Girl Guides, Britain’s sister organization to the Boy Scouts. The Girl Guides program awakened passion in Juliette, reminding her of youthful adventures from days gone by. With the help of Sir Baden-Powell, Juliette returned to the United States with a notion to launch the Girl Scouts.
Over the next 15 years, Juliette devoted her life to pioneering the Girl Scouts of the USA. She founded its inaugural troop, authored its bylaws and handbooks, and solicited its startup funds. Thanks to her tireless recruiting and relentless campaigning, the Girl Scouts program blossomed. The organization was such a source of joy for Juliette that, when diagnosed with cancer, she hid the illness as long as possible in order to continue advancing the scouting movement. While she never had children of her own, by the time of her death Juliette had an “adopted family” of more than 160,000 girl scouts. Her legacy lives on today in the 3.4 million young ladies who belong to local Girl Scout troops in America.
Questions for Reflection
Where do you focus the majority of your time, on self or on service? When the hardships of life show up at your door, do you back down or rise to the challenge? On your journey through life, will you allow yourself to be victimized, or will you be the one who claims victory over adversity and serves others out of your strength?
John C. Maxwell is an internationally respected leadership expert, speaker, and author who has sold more than 18 million books. Dr. Maxwell is the founder of EQUIP, a non-profit organization that has trained more than 5 million leaders in 126 countries worldwide. Each year he speaks to the leaders of diverse organizations, such as Fortune 500 companies, foreign governments, the National Football League, the United States Military Academy at West Point, and the United Nations. A New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Business Week best-selling author, Maxwell has written three books that have sold more than a million copies: The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, Developing the Leader Within You, and The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader. His blog can be read at www.johnmaxwellonleadership.com.