WHAT WOULD MY MOTHER THINK?
A story hit my FaceBook feed the other day. It spoke of a cross country race held in Navarra, Spain and it highlighted both character and sportsmanship. The nature of the story shone a light again for anyone feeling lost at the state of the world and the lack of Humanity in our societies. We need these beacons of hope to remind us that there is good in our world and that one bright light or good news story can indeed dispel the darkness.
For a while at least – and I am learning through these Covid times, that a while is all we can plan for at the moment.
Abel Mutai is a Kenyan athlete, clearly in the lead. He gets a little confused by the signage in a foreign country and thinking he has finished the race in first place, starts to slow down. The Spaniard Ivan Fernandez Anaya notices what is happening, and instead of racing past him in the final few meters to claim the Gold, he too slows down and points Abel to the correct and final finish line where the Kenyan’s thankful chest breaks the tape. It was a decision made in an instant and all those who witnessed it saw an immediate act of the ethical, and a great show of Humanity. Warm handshakes are shared, and even warmer feelings of real human honour are felt. In the oft times cut throat arena of global sport, it is great to see a good sport.
The fascinating part of the story lies in Ivan’s response to the journalists question of “Why?”
Why had he done this, and not taken the race for himself?
The second-place finisher, but first rate Human being makes one statement and returns with three more questions of his own.
Ivan says he dreams that someday we can have a kind of a community life. I guess he is hoping for a life and community of honour, of trust, of fairness and of respect for one another.
But it is his questions back to the startled journalist which really carried the answers we already know.
“What would be the merit of my victory?”
“What would be the honour of that medal?”
And here’s the real kicker:
“What would my Mom think of that?”
I have been working on a Leadership journey with a leading African Bank, and the module we are currently debating is ethics.
I wonder if we couldn’t save ourselves hundreds of on-line hours and great expense in the creation of a multi-page Code of Ethics by replacing them with a single statement disguised as a question:
What would my Mother think?
We could make rubber wrist bands and team T shirts with the letters WWMMT? And I bet you, that there would be a heightened consciousness over our own behaviours if we ever found ourselves in the grey areas of an ethical dilemma.
It is Mothers Day on Sunday in South Africa, and if ever there was a consistent model of Leadership which we all need more of right now, it lies in the examples of the Moms all around us. Take a walk down to the local shops and you will see these leaders who are nurses, psychologists and teachers, entertainers and event organisers, chefs and chauffeurs, house keepers and home makers – all rolled into a single human being, and all underpaid and largely undervalued.
I am sure Abel’s Mother would love to meet Ivan’s. Together they’d bask in the glory of the gold of both their sons along the marathon of life.
If we lived by that simple question every day, there’d be more fairness and less violence, more honesty and less litigation, greater inclusive conversations and deeper levels of trust.
There’d be way more love in the world, and that’s what the world needs and what Mom’s are about.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the Mom’s who build the characters who build the world, and who do it all with the currency of love. Thank You.