As we entered the parking shuttle at Los Angeles International Airport, my two colleagues and I politely greeted the driver, a cheerful, grandmotherly black lady. We were the only ones on the shuttle, and as we sat down, it seemed like a good opportunity to engage in a bit of light conversation.
Her name was Shirley and she had that kind of exuberant, joyful disposition toward life that was contagious. We asked her about her job and she said she was happy about it for three reasons: she likes people; she likes to drive; and she likes to work outdoors. This job was perfect, so she had no complaints, no resentments and plenty of common sense.
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However, while Shirley was content with her job, she was not completely oblivious to the world. She was not a self-centered person only concerned about her own little world. She knew a lot about the problems inside society and she was quite outspoken about them.
When she asked what we were doing, we explained our activism in defense of moral values and God. The mention of God hit a sensitive point and she came alive. She decried the loss of Faith and the moral crisis of our days and talked at length about them. She was very opinionated and many of those opinions were not necessarily politically correct.
She was indignant, for example, that “In God We Trust” was taken off the face of the Susan B. Anthony one dollar coin. “I tell people if you get one of ‘em, give it back and ask for a dollar bill,” she commented.
“People need to step up to the plate,” Shirley told us. “It only took one woman to take prayer out of the schools. Everyone thought it would be impossible. But that one woman got it through because no one opposed her. We need to speak out.”
As we approached our terminal, Shirley apologized, saying it was time for her to “get off my soap box.” However, on our part, there was no need to apologize since we were all edified by her attitude. It was evident to me that she was a person who influenced all those around her.
In my book, Return to Order, I maintain that there are what sociologists call “representative characters” at all levels of society. These are natural leaders who embody the values of those around them and put them into a plan of action. They are people who step up to the plate.
Usually, when referring to these characters, we tend to think of people with a lot of money, position or prestige. That is not always the case. On the parking shuttle, we found a refreshing example of a representative character from much more humble origins. I have no doubt that she plays a role that is not small where she lives and works.
Indeed, our nation is not in worse shape because there are all sorts of natural leaders like Shirley all over the country who climb onto their soap boxes. However, these existing figures are not enough to change the course of the nation. What we will need if we are to return to order are legions of heroes to come forth and let their voices be heard. We will need many more Shirleys to step up to the plate.
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Have you met any Shirleys lately? Tell us about your experience below. Pass this article on to all the Shirleys in your life.
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