Being a Young Leader

When I ran into a creek to escape some bullies as a seven year old boy and secretly cried once I made it back to our one room, wood heated, no electricity, no running water cabin, in soaked tennis shoes and patched jeans, the furthest thing from my mind was that one day I would be asked to serve as a leader. Some say that we each have a destiny, others that our choices define our path, I say that both are true. There is an intended path for us to walk, but we have to choose whether or not to embrace it. We know when we are on the path, because the world feels right to us, not a eutopia, but in balance.
As a ten year old, my single mother brought me out of Arctic Village to live in Anchorage for a while. We lived in a ghetto low-income housing unit that was multiple stories high with two long hallways per floor. As Christmas came around, I realized that most of the kids in the building were too poor to expect much for the holidays, so I decided to do something for them. I sold some stained glass I had made at a weekend workshop and searched the neighborhood, door-by-door, for a Santa suit to borrow. I made signs that Santa would be on the second floor on Christmas Eve to hear kids' wish list and to give out ice cream, which I purchased with my stained glass sales. I failed to realize I was as poor as they were, I just wanted them to be happy. Most of the kids slid off Santas' knee to the floor, as I was barely bigger than they were and the suit was made for an adult to wear. In my late twenties I reflected on this as the first time I acted in service to those around me, regardless of family, tribal, or other connection.
Over the years, it has not been my intention to pursue formal positions of leadership. I simply follow my heart, care for those around me, respond to invitations to serve, and challenge myself and others to grow when it is the right thing to do.
I believe that every person is a leader, a role model, they just have to choose to develop the innate gifts and capacities within them. We need this to be the case if we are to overcome the current and emerging challenges we face. We all have a unique role to fill within our family, community, and world. Similar to an intact ecosystem, if someone does not fulfill their role, things begin to fall out of balance. For this reason, every role is honored, honorable, and a part of the whole.