Summer is not far away and I know I am not alone in my view that it is the best season of the year. I particularly loved summer as a child, when the days seemed to go on forever and each one provided an opportunity to get outdoors and do something fun.
I remember one summer day when I was about 12 years old, my sisters and I went on a picnic with relatives in the Royal National Park. It was a day filled with swimming, hiking, lots of food and great company. The location of our picnic was renowned for its rock cliffs which were so high that only the most daring of people would jump off into the deep water below. My sisters and I stood in awe watching the older teens and adults who had the courage to jump off what seemed to us to be an enormous height, before splashing into the dark depths below, eventually breaking through the surface of the water gasping for a breath.
My sisters and I continued to swim in the water a short distance away from the rock cliff, close enough so we could watch the steady stream of ‘cliff jumpers’. It wasn’t long before we decided to clamber up to the top of the cliff ourselves to check it out. I am not ashamed to admit that I do not like heights. It gives me a sick and uneasy feeling to look down from up high and, as I cautiously crept toward the edge of the cliff, I could feel the fear rise up in my stomach.
My older sister took one look at the height of the jump and determined that there was no way she was going to take the leap and so promptly walked away. At this time in my life I prided myself on being the brave one of the trio but, with the knot in my stomach getting bigger, I stayed silent – not wanting to reveal my fear and apprehension. My younger sister had a reputation for being a bit of a baby and, as we both stood on top of the cliff contemplating whether to jump, I was convinced that this challenge was definitely beyond her. This knowledge gave me the bravado to break the silence and say to her; “I’ll jump if you do!” With only a few seconds of hesitation, my little sister leapt fearlessly from the cliff and moments later I saw her blonde head bobbing in the water below. Suffice it to say, I did not want to jump. But, with my reputation on the line, I felt forced to ignore my pounding heartbeat, cast my fears aside, and follow her lead. The leap was exhilarating and, as I broke through the surface of the water, I felt my face erupt into a smile as I swam back to shore with my little sister; proud of what we had both achieved.
This event is memorable for two reasons – the first being never to underestimate my little sister, and the second was the realisation of the powerful persuasiveness of someone who is willing to go first. It is unlikely that I would have jumped off that cliff if my little sister hadn’t gone first. Whether it was seeing her complete the jump safely or simply not wanting to be outdone by my sibling, my sister’s decision to “go first” provided the impetus for me to rise above my fears and have a go too. While I am not suggesting that we all need to go and jump off rocks, my encouragement is for us all to take a moment to consider in which area of our life God maybe calling us to “go first”?
As I reflect on my own life I can see that there have been times when I have let an opportunity pass me by through fear of being the “only one.” There are times when I should have spoken up, yet stayed silent, other times when I should have run in that race, gone to that event or stayed away from a situation that I knew was wrong. Who knows how many others would have joined with me if I was daring enough to be the first?
It takes courage to be the first person to put their hand up, particularly when the consequences of doing so are uncertain. Having the wisdom to discern which risks are worth taking and the resolve to act on this, even if you are the only one, are some of the hallmarks of a great leader. It is traits such as this that we aim to develop in all of our students at Cedars.
In doing so we never know how many others we may be inspiring to follow our lead and to have a go at something they never would have had the confidence to do otherwise.