I learned how to lead by serving.
Next week, I will stand with my pastor, Nisan Stewart, at the church (Greater Emmanuel Temple Church) we both grew up at in Lynwood, California as we break ground for a new youth center that will house a music school named after his father, Bishop Carl W. Stewart. This a fitting honor for a man who had the heart to see young people succeed.
Bishop Carl W. Stewart was my role model, mentor, and father figure. I had the opportunity to work as Bishop Stewart’s personal valet since I was eleven years old. My duties started with making sure he had a fresh glass of juice or water to drink when he finished preaching and carrying his Bible and handkerchief to his seat on the pulpit. Soon, I would assist him on most every occasion inside and outside of our church. I was by his side as he performed weddings, officiated funerals, visited the sick and fed the homeless.
Every Sunday morning, it was my duty to wait outside the elevator that led to Bishop Stewart’s office so I could carry his Bible and handkerchief to his seat on the pulpit. As I met him at the doors of the elevator every Sunday morning, he always had encouraging words, stern directives and or a quick life lesson to share with me. The greatest of the lessons he taught me had nothing to do with what he said to me. Instead, they had to do with what I was able to watch him do.
Bishop Stewart passed in 2012. My final act of service to him was standing guard as he lay in state at his funeral. As I stood there, I reflected on the many lessons I was able to glean from him and how they would be instrumental in the journey ahead.
One of the greatest lessons I learned from Bishop Stewart is one that I model as an educator and leader. Bishop Stewart believed in putting young people in the position to be successful while pushing them to strive for excellence. He saw something in me that I did not see in myself until he put me in the position to see it. He saw a leader, so he took me under his wing until I was able to fly under the power of my own. Bishop Stewart’s memory is a reminder to me as to how important it is to lead by example.
Every child has the potential to be great, but not every child is put in the position to be great. In fact, the greatness of our young people is inevitable if they have the opportunity to see for themselves what we see in them. As an educator, putting youth in the position to succeed, thrive and lead by realizing their full potential is my mission. Someone did it for me, and I feel that it is my duty to do this for the youth in the communities I serve.