When asked, “What is your greatest gift?” I did not hesitate, having already given it a lot of thought. My greatest gift is that of a shepherd. You may think I am talking (again) about my sheep. Well, yes, I herd sheep around… or actually they just follow the food dish, but yes, sheep are part of my life as a shepherd.
Secondly, I herd children. As you know, I have a pile of them. Six to be exact. I have spent 31 years as the leader of the kid parade through parks, playgrounds and Walmart, making sure everyone had enough Elmer’s glue and clean underwear to grow into wonderful adults. It wasn’t always easy and there were days when it seemed more like herding cats than children, but so far, I still know where most of them are (I think), and sometimes they even call.
Lastly, I herd residents in the senior communities where I work. At some communities there has been as many as 800 seniors who allow me to show them the way to achieving their optimum life. Most don’t care to know why we do what we do, just as long as I show up as their #1 cheerleader. It has been said that I have a way of making large groups of people do things they don’t necessarily want to do, which, of course, is in my job description.
One of my teammates gave me a plaque for my birthday that says “Feed them, and they will come!” After looking at it for awhile in my office, I started to hope that it wasn’t just my cookies that made them show up. Perhaps it was something else.
On one occasion, my old community was having a mock evacuation drill. “Bob, you get everyone out of the Library. Sue, you take the Dining Room and Kitchen, and Carol, you sweep through all the restrooms on the 1st floor!” the Director shouted.
“Deb, you take the auditorium, the Hair Salon, the Art Studio, 2nd floor bathrooms and resident apartments on the West wing.” WHAT??????
“Right!” I said as I straightened my commando belt, “Let’s rock this! Uh, do I get a cool hat and a whistle???” Besides being a giant safety nerd and really grooving on emergency protocol, I wondered why I had been delegated such a big area.
“We just know the residents will follow you,” they said. I didn’t feel like a sucker, I felt like they were right and if it had been a REAL evacuation, I was prepared to take control of the situation.
It’s true, however, that they were not as likely to follow the woman who gives them their rent bill each month as the one who hands out wine at Happy Hour, but they did have a point.
Why do people follow me? I believe it’s trust. When you are a person who gives your time to others, is helpful and is easy to approach, of course, people will want to be around you. Residents know that I will find their teeth, hide their secrets, steal them a second doughnut and do my damnedest to get them what they want every time. It is the same with my kids… and my sheep, I’m the one you call when you need someone to gather you up and hold you together.
Living a Red Shoe Life is not about what you get, but what you give. My greatest gift is the ability to herd kids, animals and old people. I look at every situation as an opportunity to be a leader and to help in some way. Give it a try. Most people are just trying to find their way through this life, so if you feed them, they will not only come, but people will put their trust in you… and THAT is the greatest gift.