Midland deserves more faithful, gracious leaders like Sharla Hotchkiss



In the cool of the morning, as the sun peaked out slowly with the warm oranges and purples of our West Texas spring, I went for a walk with my dear friend Sharla.  We stepped off the front porch and she began to speak of the plants and trees in her yard, describing fondly the circumstances of their planting, how she came to have that one particular burr oak tree, and why she decided to plant a lacy desert willow just there on the corner to provide shade to the bed below.  She motioned gracefully as she spoke, pointing with the same long, tapered fingers that have lovingly tended that very same yard and flower beds for 50 years now.

As we made our way from Sharla’s yard and began to walk through the neighborhood, she and I began to speak of our love for Midland, to reminisce about people we’ve known and the good things that are happening today in Midland. Even as we discussed concerns and problems, she never wavered from her optimism and confidence in our little city.

Bending down to pick up a crushed Chick-fil-a cup from the gutter in front of a lovely Old Midland house, Sharla said, “This homeowner would never have littered. I know him!” She embodies generosity of spirit and helpfulness to those around her, unknowingly leading me to likewise think well of people, to simply pick up the trash I see and to address the problems before me, without harshly judging the ones who might have caused the problems.

As we moved on with our walk, collected trash in hand, Sharla waved and spoke to a young mother pushing a stroller down Harvard Street. “These are my friends. I don’t know all their names, but these are my neighbors.” 

It quickly became apparent to me that Sharla does, in fact, know most of the names of her neighbors.  She knows when they constructed the “new” addition to their house 20 years ago. She knows who is likely so upset to have lost all their hearty pittosporum plants to the hard freeze a few weeks ago. She knows the heartaches and sorrows, the births of new babies, the new families moving in and the exciting renovations taking place in the blocks surrounding her own home. She has the benefit of staying faithful for 50 years in the same place.


Sharla knows the blessing of growing deep roots of love and community. Choosing to take a modest house and little dab of knowledge of gardening, her commitment has cultivated a beautiful, lush life here in the desert.

In addition to this faithful life, well-lived right in the center of the place God has planted her, Sharla has raised a family, owned businesses, been elected twice to City Council and served as executive director of a prominent non-profit. She continues to serve on boards and committees even now, when she could reasonably claim a cushy, slow retirement. She is the real deal! A strong female influencer and thought-leader from right here among us!

For those serving in any level of leadership in Midland today, I want to encourage you (and myself) to look closely at the lives of noteworthy individuals like Sharla. May we make it our goal to lead well-rounded lives, not merely seeking to make a splash or to publicly correct those with whom we disagree or to speak harshly about errors or injustice. We have plenty of folks in our town who can point out the problems; there is no shortage of nay-sayers and fear-mongers. 

Rather, let us each seek to lead with such graciousness and faithfulness, as my friend Sharla has. Let us become those who know our neighbors’ names, who pay attention to the lives of those around us, who commit to plant the oak tree and nurture it for a lifetime. Let us grow roots in our places and make way for others to do the same. We have a place for you, faithful Midlander, in every space of our community. 

Whether you lead in picking up debris from our gutters or you lead in tending your own landscape well… Whether you lead in teaching kids to read or you lead in running for political office…

Whether you lead in small, humble service on your street or you lead in big public efforts …

Midland has a place for you, my friend. We need your leadership – consistent, limited, faithful, loving, flawed, well-intentioned and willing to go the distance. Step off your own front porch this morning and take your own walk through the neighborhood. You just may find you are Midland’s next strong influencer. We can’t wait to meet you.

 



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xandoblogs

An open minded personality.. fun to be with, because of my positive vibes. God fearing, for without God I am nothing.. Moved with compassion when dealing with you, not selfish or self-centered...

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