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Front Line Staff / Staff Leadership and Management / Storytellers

Who You Are Speaks Louder than Anything You Can Say

healthy living

A troubled mother took her daughter to see Mohandas Gandhi,
who was world-renowned for his great spiritual discipline. It seems
the young girl had become addicted to eating sweets, and her mother
wanted Gandhi to speak to her about this harmful habit and convince
her to drop it. Upon hearing this request, Gandhi paused in silence
and then told the mother, “Bring the girl back to me in three weeks
and I will speak to her then.”

Just as she was instructed, the mother returned with her daughter,
and Gandhi, as he had promised, spoke to the girl about the detrimental
effects of eating too many sweets. He counseled her to give them up.

The mother gratefully thanked Gandhi, but was perplexed. “Why,”
she asked him, “did you not speak to my daughter when we first came to you?”

“My good woman,” Gandhi replied, “three weeks ago
I myself was still addicted to sweets!”

I ran across this story as I celebrated a recent milestone in my own personal journey to walk the talk of sugar-and-refined-carbohydrate-free living.

It reminded me of my previous status as a Poser. The reason being that while I’ve “taught and trained” on healthy practices, inundating learners (including my own poor children) with information on portion control, processed foods, critical media literacy, weight-related disease, exercise etc. (all beautifully packaged by curriculum publishers and approved by funders), I didn’t have much credibility by virtue of how I myself lived. Nor did I have a true understanding of what it meant to put that knowledge into practice.

Gandhi and other great teachers understand that WHO WE ARE is a far stronger message than WHAT WE SAY.

While I’ve long understood this intellectually, not until I had the humbling experience of learning by doing, did I really internalize the profound truth in this story. Our teaching is more authentic, with greater potential for impact, when it comes from a place of having experienced the same learning we are trying to facilitate. Our model is our most valuable teaching element.

I get it now ….. and I’ll humbly tell you why. Twelve months ago (hence the 1 year milestone) I was 100 lbs overweight, teetering on Type 2 diabetes, taking medication for high cholesterol and experiencing serious fatigue. I was a walking, living contradiction. Burning my candle at each end, and a few spots in the middle, putting on everyone else’s oxygen mask before my own, thinking “just as soon as this is taken care of I’ll take care of myself” because that’s what we do in youth and family services. I’m well aware that this is a common attribute of those in our profession, in fact, I coach my staff to resist this … again, posing.

Things came to a critical point last year. I’ll spare you the gory details, but suffice it to say, I became painfully aware (both physically and spiritually) that I can’t do the things I need, want and care to do (Teaching falling into all of these categories) if this vessel is polluted, and carrying more weight than it was designed to carry. So I did something we are also known NOT to do in this profession. I asked for help.

With the support of friends and family, I have drastically changed how I practice Living.

Making a committed choice to align my professed values and my actions. I began the challenging task of making healthy food choices, incorporating physical activity into my life, and drawing personal boundaries to preserve my health. I’m elated to say that as each day passes, I enjoy a far more authentic existence in my role as an educator, manager and mother. I’ve reversed my glucose numbers, eliminated the need for cholesterol medication, and released 70+ lbs.

I have a leg to stand on now (albeit smaller), when advocating healthier living in our programs, and I am witnessing amazing things, directly related, all around me. What a privilege it is to be a Teacher, or as I now see it a “Learner Out Loud”. So I challenge you, what is it you still need to learn in order to be a better educator? Today is the day to start.

***** Breakfast clubbers share what they had for breakfast …. so here goes… I am proud to say that I enjoyed cooked whole oats with cinnamon, pecans and a banana. Ready for the day …. for my work … for my life. Namaste.

Author: Annette Zucconi

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