Starting Something That Matters

It is difficult to fully communicate how tragic the losses were and how challenging the dynamics continue to be.

One year ago, a teen boy took his life at our community high school.

Within six months, our small town of 4,000 had lost two more boys to suicide.

Anguished families. Distraught friends. Caring citizens asking questions…many unanswerable.

Frightened parents. Bewildered teachers. A community…diminished.

Initially, my energies were consumed with my own grief and helping my family and friends maneuver their grieving. These boys were close to my son’s age with younger siblings the ages of my daughters. Friends would call in a panic, asking if something they were observing in their child was a warning sign.

The day I told my kids of the third loss remains clear in my mind. It hit my son particularly hard. A track teammate whom he had seen just the day before…was gone.

Alone in a quiet house after school drop off, I looked at the Walking with Justice manuscript sitting on my dining room table. The editors had been understanding of the challenges I was facing, but the deadline we had agreed to was approaching.

I sat down with a cup of hot tea, picked up my pen, and began editing the next chapter: Quiet Leader.

This chapter shares the story of how my mentor, Judge Max Rosenn, taught me that leaders do not lead because they want to be a leader. It is not about them. True leaders step up when they see a need and they believe that they have the education, skills, and connections to bring relief and healing.

The context of this chapter was how Judge led his community of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania through the worst natural disaster up to that point in our American history. One billion dollars of damage done in a weekend when Hurricane Agnes roared up the east coast in 1972. The devastated community turned to Judge for help. He promptly said yes.

As I continued editing, a paragraph spoke to me about a message that was needed in my own community…

My mentor’s message to his community after the flood was one I heard him repeat over the years to local youth. Keep hope alive. Even though your conditions may be limited, there is opportunity. With thought and planning and persistence, you can overcome the obstacles and inadequacies that exist. “In times of great uncertainty and need, you will have doubts,” he said. “Also have hopes. Have dreams.”

The Uncommon Lesson at the end of the chapter jumped off the page: “A noble leader answers not to the trumpet calls of self-promotion but to the hushed whispers of necessity.”

I knew.

It really was this simple: in this moment, at a deep core level, I knew.

I knew that my education as a social psychologist… my skills as a resilience researcher… my experience as a peak performance coach… and my connections to some of the top trainers in the country put me in a position to help bring the relief and healing our community desperately needed (and continues to need).

My options stood before me with great clarity.

Walk away from completing Walking with Justice and the challenge it was laying on my heart. Not an option I would entertain.

Publish Walking with Justice as a hypocrite. Not an option I would entertain.

Step up and put out the call to other leaders in our community: We must keep hope alive. Not only can something good come from this, but something good must.

I sat down at my computer and penned another paragraph for the quiet leadership chapter:

Judge understood as a leader that the gravest danger in a crisis is the death of hope. His leadership refocused attention from darkness to light. See the light emanating from within – that is the light of potential. See the light in the distance – that is the light of possibility. See the light directly before you that will illuminate the way as you take a first step, and then another. This is the light of hope.

When I recently read Start Something that Matters by Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS shoes, his description of servant leadership resonated deeply. Walking with Justice talks about Judge as a servant mentor.

Blake writes:

“Today’s successful leaders are those willing to share credit as much as possible, who give away as much as they can, and who promote an environment of creative cooperation instead of rabid competition. I confess, when I started in business more than a decade ago, my goal was to become a rock-star business leader, someone whose name would resonate throughout the world, someone whose fame would supersede that of others of my generation – the typical cult CEO. But the more I learned about business and, along the way, about the world, the more the urge dissipated. In its place rose the desire to lead with a softer, more human touch…. A leader can create a company, but a community creates a movement….as a leader, your job is to help others do their jobs better. This is why I tell my top people to help serve everyone in their group.”

My Start Something that Matters project began that day at my dining room table and progressed out the door into my community. It continues to grow with the establishment of a non-profit Community Resiliency Project dedicated to providing post-crisis recovery support and long-term resiliency tools to build healthy youth and vibrant communities.

Our world is being challenged more than ever by natural and manmade disasters. Many are experiencing deep losses and unprecedented turmoil. The needed solutions are innovative, holistic, and long-term…and will originate and grow organically from within as people come together to strengthen their individuals, families, and community as a whole.

What is speaking to you right now…as YOUR Something that Matters?

What steps are you taking to do business or lead in a way that goes beyond yourself?

What questions do you have about your next best step?

What advice do you have for those seeking to make a positive impact in this world as a servant leader and mentor?

Don’t listen to any voice that says the steps you are taking are too small to share. Some days it may feel like you’re trying to refill a lake with a teaspoon. No matter how small the steps, you are making a difference with each step that heads you in the direction you seek to go.

Please share your thoughts, questions, and wisdom. One commentator will be randomly selected to receive a copy of Start Something that Matters and another will receive a copy of Walking with Justice.

All of you will receive my gratitude and a prayer to help you develop and share your unique gifts in the service of others.

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Leave A Reply (23 comments So Far)

  • Anonymous

    so beautiful and so true – I adore and am so inspired by watching you take what you know and put it to another level of service – glorious!

    • You’re so kind. You are a shining ally doing quiet work to support kids and community — and an inspiration to me as I keep recomitting to walk out my truth in service to others. Appreciate you, Jen.

  • Lisa Mininni

    Mollie:  So incredibly written.  Two points stood out  “…a leader, your job is to help others do their jobs better.” and “Don’t listen to any voice that says the steps you are taking are too small to share.” Sometimes people think leader is someone who is bigger than life and commands others, yet it is the quiet leaders that allow others to rise to their greatest good that, in the end, are the most effective.  It is often the little things, too, that have the greatest meaning in the world.  It might just be remembering to say thank you or simply sharing a hug and listening to another when they are in their most challenging moment. 

    • Thanks for sharing what spoke to you, Lisa. Blake’s book is really worth a read — bringing the big concept of “servant leader” alive in simple way with that focus — helping others do their jobs better and become more of the person they seek to be.

      It is often the little things that have the greatest meaning… Well said, Lisa.

  • susannemorrone

    I remember words to a poem which really impacted me when I read them as a child:  “Are you almost disgusted with life little man?  I’ll tell you a wonderful trick…that will bring you contentment if anything can, do something for somebody quick!”  It is the “more happiness in giving than receiving” principle.  We can make a difference even if it’s helping one person at a time.  We not only can–we must!  When one person rises to the call sharing truth, light, encouragement and hope, it moves others of like heart to step up and serve as well.  Thank you Mollie for being a servant mentor yourself.  Judge no doubt would be very proud. 


    • I’ve never heard that poem, Susanne. What a character builder — staying with you all this time.

      Thanks for your kind words. The thought of Judge being proud of me brings a smile 😉 Appreciate you!

  • Astarte

    Ten years ago my teenage boy took his own life. Since then I have grown myself as a coach and I do make a difference in people’s lives, even if it does seem to be so little at times. Thank you for the reminder that every little thing one does makes a difference.

    • My condolences, Astarte. Kudos on the courage you’ve shown in responding to your deep loss by continuing to grow yourself. 

      When a need is so big, our efforts can feel small. Keep building up your tool box so you can more quickly get recentered and refresh your perspective when you begin coming from this view of “I’m not doing enough…I’m not enough.” 

      Every little thing you do in service to others makes a difference. This is truth. Embrace it as you continue to honor your son’s life. Blessings.

  • 10 months ago my husband and father were run down in a parking lot by a hit and run driver at my son’s Boy Scout meeting. My niece worked over them trying to save them and my kids sat and watched all the people they love in crisis. My husband had major brain trauma, surgery to help stop swelling and induced coma. Miraculously he survived to the complete shock of his doctors. We have been searching to be able to make sense. There is no medical explanation of why this trauma did not kill him. We are all suffering still with emotional turmoil, but the piece that resonates for me in reading this is that out of all this- we need to find the something that matters. I want to find a way to help children of TBI survivors. That is something that matters to me now. There is a reason I decided to go to this link from a friend, isn’t it funny how the universe speaks to us?

    • Laura, I’m so touched by your story. Thank you for sharing it with us here, and we all stand with you as you heal and make a difference in the lives of other TBI survivors!

    • How tragic, Laura. My heart goes out to you.

      I’ve been having this conversation with a dear friend in that “I must be here for a reason” stage after surviving an accident and hearing from several doctors that they’ve lost many who went through what he did. I believe you have a rare opportunity to say “yes” to this type of powerful invitation to do deeply meaningful and impactful work.

      These windows of opportunity can slowly close as we become re-hypnotized by the busyness of life. Please stay awake! Walk forward intentionally … step by step … to make a difference in the lives of those kids who need help adjusting to the realities of living with a TBI survivor parent. Grateful you’ve found our community to support you in this journey!

    • Laura — just came across this website by a TBI survivor with posts from his wife, too. Thought it may be helpful to you:

  • I loved every chapter of Walking With Justice, and I especially enjoy watching you, Mollie – put all the pieces of your training together for such a time as this. The comments from readers melt my heart here. God bless the Best Life Design community and the communities represented by each member!

    • Our Best Life Design community is fortunate to have your wisdom and loving contributions, Gina. Your gracious support of my online and offline community work rejuvenates me. Thank you!

  • Rachel Morey Flynn

    “Don’t listen to any voice that says the steps you are taking are too
    small to share. Some days it may feel like you’re trying to refill a
    lake with a teaspoon.” Thanks for that. I’ll replace the never ending beat, “I get knocked down….But I get up again…” with this idea today. 🙂

    • That came from my current experience. Lots of days when my mind wants to focus on the vastness of the empty lake. I can see it. I know how to fill it. I know how important it is to fill — and the very real difference it will make for our kids and communities. And yet all I seemingly have in the moment is a teaspoon to get the job done.

      I believe that teaspoon…by teaspoon…by teaspoon matters. And Blake’s book makes the point that one reason it matters (there are many!) is that as one person on a mission for good wields that teaspon, another joins…and another…and then a whole community of teaspoon bearers unite to start refilling that lake. A movement is born! 😉

      Keep walking it out, Rachel!

  • Everything matters and everyone matters very much.
    If life gives you another chance, it’s from the pulsing well
    Of urgency.  Tune in until your clean teaspoon has dug
    A channel to the lake of hope, where each may be refreshed.

    • Digging a channel to the lake of hope, where each may be refreshed.

      Honoring your poet’s heart…
      Thank you for sharing your light today, Katrina!

  • Anonymous

    In times of great uncertainty and need, you will have doubts,” he said. “Also have hopes. Have dreams.” As one in a time of great uncertainity, I can say truer words have not been spoken. Along side that it are the friends and mentors in my life that help keep my eyes focused on the light, that help keep those hopes and dreams alive in me.

    • Thanks for letting me know how the words of my mentor brought you some respite and helped you refocus on the light — both within and in front of you. These words have provided me tremendous comfort many times over.

      Godspeed, Doc Meredith.

  • Angie

    Love it Mollie:-)  Keep wondering how I got off what I consider the beaten path.  Yet know that journey has filled and is filling my toolbelt.  So honored to be working with you and many others.

    • No more wondering … and the beaten path is overrated 😉
      Face forward, Angie!

      Face forward…and take the next best step, fueled by your gratitude for the wisdom your journey has endowed you with and how it will allow you to better serve and heal others.

      Thrilled to welcome you to the Community Resiliency Project and grateful for all you are already bringing to the community of Mount Vernon! Appreciate you.

  • And the random book winners are…

    Start Something That Matters – Gina Parris 
    Walking with Justice – Rachel Morey Flynn

    I also would like to announce a gift copy of Start Something That Matters to Laura Cooper Kitchings, whose story touched me deeply. Thank you for sharing with us.

    Please send your mailing address to

    THANK YOU to all of you who left comments and interacted around this important topic of service and creating meaning for ourselves and others through our work. As mentioned above, I am sending each of you gratitude and a prayer to help you continue developing and sharing your unique gifts in the service of others!