Learning from Legends Rosa Parks and Mara Wellington

Rosa Parks died at the age of 92. That’s the big national story in the morning papers this 25th day of October 2005. What a lady she was.

A seamstress by trade, this Alabama native had no clue her courage to stand for her truth would begin a nation’s transformation.

It was almost 50 years ago, December 1, 1955, when Parks boarded the Cleveland Avenue bus in Montgomery for the ride home after a long day of work in a department store. Years later in an interview, she admitted, the last thing on her mind was being “the mother of the civil rights movement.” She had other plans. As an active NAACP member, Parks had to send out notices of the organization’s upcoming elections for officers; she also had to prepare to host a teenage leadership workshop that weekend.

Then, after a white man had entered the bus and wanted to sit in the middle section, bus driver James Blake approached Parks, and wondered, “Are you going to move?”

“No, I’m not,” stated the woman who went on to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

“Then I will have to call the police and have you arrested,” Blake warned. “You may do that,” was Parks short, but determined reply.

We know the rest of the story. Parks’ strength to stand up to injustice led to Martin Luther King getting involved which led to the civil rights’ movement exploding throughout our land.

What can we learn from this incredible woman who was born Rosa Louis McCauley before marrying barber Raymond Parks in 1932?

Many things for sure. But one certainly stands out. We hear it all the time, but often lack the courage to implement it: stand, or in this case, sit, for your truth.

This wasn’t the first time Parks had bristled at the terrible treatment of herself and other African Americans. “My resisting being mistreated on the bus did not begin with that particular arrest,” she would say years later. “I did a lot of walking in Montgomery.”

Finally though on this fateful day in her 42nd year on this planet, Rosa Parks internally said “ENOUGH!” I will not tolerate this injustice any longer!

Her determination to remain seated despite segregation laws requiring her to move to the back of the bus, inspired African Americans to stand and be heard.

Where in your life might it be time to take a stand of defiance? Against, perhaps, yourself? To stand for your truth and no longer accept something you know is unhealthy and productive, for you?

Is it time to toss that pack of cigarettes in the trash? Is it time to stop the habit of stopping after work for a few beers in the corner bar? Is it time to eradicate placing blame of others for your lot in life? Is it time to finally start exercising more consistently? Is it time to show your spouse more acknowledgement, adoration and affection?

Where is it time for you to take a stand, in protest to any self-destructive behaviors preventing you from expressing yourself in healthy and productive ways?

We’re not talking about changing the world, or starting a civil rights movement, we’re talking about something that YOU can control, through your actions, thoughts and beliefs. Where is it time, as is suggested in “Run to Daylight: Transforming Potential into Prosperity,” to become “superior to your former self?”

Later this same day, Wellington Mara died at the age of 89. That’s the national sports news on the radio as I drive home from Boulder, CO. after securing interviews with University of Colorado football players about their upcoming game against Kansas State. NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue called the long-time owner of the New York Giants, “the heart and soul of the National Football League.”

Back in the early 1960’s, Mara made a sacrifice that was the foundation for the NFL’s continued great success. He and brother Jack, owners of the biggest team in the biggest market, agreed to share television revenue on a league-wide basis, dividing the huge amounts of money available in cities like New York with smaller market teams from Pittsburgh to Green Bay.

The Mara’s saw the value in sharing; they saw the value in trusting the law of circulation; that one good deed leads to another. Tagliabue had more to say about Mara’s death after a bout with cancer. “He was a man of deep conviction who stood as a beacon on integrity.”

Life is so precious; so fleeting; so unpredictable and uncertain.

Life each and every moment like it might be your last. Tap into the spirit of Rosa Parks when you’re feeling afraid to stand for what you believe in; Tap into the spirit of Wellington Mara when you feel isolated and alone.

Ordinary people, just like you and me. Yet people who made extraordinary decisions that left a lasting mark on America. They are gone now, but their spirit can remain vibrantly alive in us, through the lessons we can learn and then apply in our own lives.

Courage to fight injustice and a willingness to share the wealth; of not just money, but ideas, tolerance and goodwill; all business schools offering classes in leadership should make biographies of Parks and Mara required reading.

Honestly, upon further review, a study of their lives would be a great read for learning successful strategies to run a home, business, school or community.

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