Strength in humility

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. David Caffee
  • 366th Training Squadron
While growing up on a farm in South Dakota, I never would have agreed the experiences I lived through would impact me later on in life. 

One such event, I'll never forget. 

In 1970, I remember helping my father and uncle with bringing in the harvest during the peak of the summer. Even at the young age of 9, I knew a small storm could wipe out our delicate crops and speed was important. I remember helping my dad empty a truck full of wheat when he told me we were going to pause our harvesting for a few days. I was shocked and began to protest, until I found out the reason why. 

Our neighbor, had been diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease and was undergoing painful treatment ... all of the neighbors were getting together to help bring in his crops since he was too sick to do it himself. 

Wow! Talk about a moving memory. 

It's funny how simple lessons affect the way you think later on in life. I remember filling in as acting squadron commander and having to attend a leadership seminar in my commander's absence. The seminar's dynamic facilitator had the entire room pumped. Then he asked each one of us to take 30 seconds to write down what we would want on our headstone if we were to die today ... something we would want to be remembered by. 

When we were done, he called on a couple of colonels to read their piece, and many hooyahs, right-ons and other loud approval statements came from the audience. Surprisingly, he asked what I had written and I read, "His strength was his humility."
No kidding ... dead silence. After what seemed an eternity, the facilitator said, "Okay, anyone else?" 

Over the years, I've thought about these events, but honestly, I wouldn't change a thing. I believe humility is a strong leadership virtue demonstrated through our actions when taking the time, energy and effort to serve another by placing their needs before our own or submitting to a cause greater than ourselves. 

I take the definition further and add that a good leader exercising humility would not expect anything in return nor would they become boastfully proud of their actions.
Where is the strength you ask? Take a look at the faces of the people you serve and you can't miss it. Think of what you saw in the faces of those you've helped when deployed to a location where human need is very high such as Iraq, Afghanistan or the Gulf Coast region after Hurricane Katrina. 

You might agree, you've gained a friend willing to do anything to help you out if ever you are in need and you, yourself, have gained an experience worth it's weight in gold. I truly believe humility in action results in a stronger person, team and, ultimately, a stronger society. 

If humility is not a strength, then the Holy Bible is wrong and I would propose we change one of our core values ... service before self.