titles do not make leaders

He always had a smile playing around the corners of his mouth ready to burst into that full fledged humorous smile that made others around him smile in spite of themselves. He had a sparkle in his eyes and a jaunty spring to his step. He had a gift for seeing the humor in almost any situation and was quick to point it out.

He always had a kind word for people; always encouraging others and he seemed to know when you needed it the most. He was the kind of person that caused you to become better just by being around him.

He was optimistic about the future and was always “planting trees” for the next generation. He didn’t look back, but was always looking expectantly towards the horizon.

When I was first privileged to meet him, he was already well into his 70’s and had retired from his vocational job many years before. In his 70’s he was a “younger” and more optimistic person than most 20-year olds. He had endured much and walked with a limp due to a German machine-gun bullet that had gone through both of his legs.

We both sat on the governing body of a nonprofit as volunteers and had no formal authority as individuals. Many times our meetings got quite lively if you know what I mean. Yet when that gentle man quietly started to speak, all the noise, all the fuss stopped as everyone waited to hear what he had to say. Just a few quiet words of wisdom from that man changed the direction of many meetings – in a good way.

He was a man of integrity, a man of honor, a man of wisdom, who cared for people, who cared for the truth, was passionate about the mission, and was ever looking forward. He was a leader because of who he was, not because of any title.

I miss Mr. Al and I want to be like him when “I grow up”.