Leadership Takes More Than Talk

By D. Allan Kerr

We had to stop at a red light as we were pulling out of the Market Basket parking lot in Portsmouth last weekend, where a man was holding a sign saying he needed food and blankets.

Like a lot of people, I tend to just drive by when I see these folks standing at street corners and intersections. But my nine-year-old daughter, Layla, saw him from the back seat.

“Can we give that man this blanket?” she asked.

I told her the blanket she was sitting on was dirty, but it’s also this warm and fuzzy Red Sox memento I really didn’t want to part with.

Brother Can You Spare A Dime 3As we continued home we passed another guy with a sign maybe a mile away, standing near the ramp turning onto the northbound I-95 lane into Maine.

His sign said he wasn’t on drugs or alcohol but he, too, needed assistance.

For the rest of the ride home, which wasn’t long, Layla pressed her case for grabbing some blankets and bringing them back to the two homeless men we’d seen.

I had to take care of some work stuff because I’m a busy and important person, but I said she and her mother could make the trip if they wanted.

Which, of course, was a big mistake on my part.

When I returned home a couple of hours later, the women in my life informed me they had not only brought blankets to the homeless men, but also returned to Market Basket and spent another $64 on food, socks and gift cards for these strangers. This is after we had already purchased our own groceries for the week.

I didn’t have to question my wife, Nicole, because I’m always accusing her of having a heart bigger than our wallet anyway. But I was curious what motivated my daughter, who recently started fourth grade.

“I dunno – I felt bad for them, and they seemed nice,” she replied.

Maria over PRIt so happens this was the same weekend the Failing President of the United States, facing severe criticism for his handling of relief efforts after a hurricane slammed Puerto Rico, blamed the people of Puerto Rico.

This spoiled-brat billionaire who has never “gone without” for a single day of his life accused hurricane victims of wanting “everything to be done for them.” He called them “politically motivated ingrates” and when he finally visited the island he informed them they had not suffered a “real catastrophe” – even as most of them were still without food, water, electricity or communication.

When Hurricane Maria initially slammed into Puerto Rico, he responded by starting a feud with the National Football League. When he finally did address the devastation, he decided it would be a good opportunity to remind the victims they owe Wall Street billions of dollars in debt.Puerto Rico Faces Extensive Damage After Hurricane Maria

And when San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz had the audacity to tell the world her fellow citizens still needed help, he accused her of poor leadership. He tweeted this from his golf resort. That very Sunday, he was quite literally watching a golf event from a glass tower.

Meanwhile, news footage showed the mayor of San Juan wading thru water higher than her waist with a bullhorn as she rallied her beleaguered constituents.

San Juan Mayor Water

It wouldn’t take much effort to keep going along this line, but it’s clear to everyone playing attention there’s a huge difference between Chicken Liar’s response to hurricanes in Texas and Florida and his response to Puerto Rico. You’re free to speculate as to why.

The guy has lavished himself with praise for his efforts, as usual, and very generously gave himself an A+ for the hurricane responses. We’ve heard this all before.

But see, we don’t get to grade ourselves in this life – we’re graded by the people for whom we work. Layla doesn’t get to give herself an A+ in school, she has to earn it.

What we’ve gotten from Chicken Liar, time and again, is talk. And more talk. And not even smart talk. His administration has been a tenure of lies, insults, threats and false promises. Leadership requires action.

He could learn how to act like a leader – as in taking action, rather than performing a role like an unschooled thespian – by studying the mayor of San Juan. Or my nine-year-old daughter.

Layla Kerr - First Day, Third Grade 2
Layla, The Blanket Giver

Layla and her amazing mother have decided they’re going to distribute items to local homeless people once a month now. I can’t say I’m thrilled by this new drain on our household budget, but we’ll be OK.

Personally, when I see homeless people holding signs I think of all the Now Hiring signs plastered everywhere I go. But you know, I have no idea what the stories of these people might be.

I just know this little girl has shown a remarkable capacity to think beyond herself. She didn’t do any of this for praise or reward – although I did bring her to Dairy Queen afterward.

(October 7, 2017)


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