Mary is a nurse in Ventura County, California. She was on call at home when the Amazon box was dropped on her front step. She sprayed it with a watered-down bleach solution and returned to the backyard to garden for a bit with her shadow, Roxie the Yorkie. In her suddenly unique situation, she had a single day at home to recharge instead of being there daily like most of us, and she spent that day sipping in calm from the plants with her hands in the earth, drinking in the quiet.

When she was done, she folded the gloves, hung her trowel in the garage, and walked to the front door of her cottage, scooping the brown box with familiar black and blue tape up into her arms. She cut down the center of the flaps, folded them open and reached two hands underneath the item she’d ordered the week before, pulling it out and holding it in front of her.

Well, this was new. It looked too big for her, but she knew she’d get used to it. It was the face shield she ordered last week and it had arrived just in time for her to wear it to the hospital tomorrow, and every day after that.

Mary strapped the mask around her face, tightening the edges and letting her eyes lift up to find herself in the mirror. This is me now, she thought. Light gleamed off the reflective surface and she could see the outline of her pursed lips beneath it. Hmm. She pulled her long hair up and twisted it to pop out of the top in a bun. Better.

She snapped a selfie from her phone and sent it to her brother—my husband—and me. The accompanying text message said “My face shield arrived today. Hospital ran out. There is room for my bun! Thankful for the little things, like room for my hair and the ability to purchase my own protective equipment.” My husband and I looked at each other with tears in our eyes.

We often think of Leadership with a big L: being a CEO or starting a non-profit. But small-L leadership is maybe more important and is something that’s available to every one of us every day. It shows up in the daily choices we make as we interpret the intentions of others, how we communicate and respond to everyday events, and in the stories we create about what we are experiencing. We can recognize everyday moments as opportunities to envision a better world and speak or act in a way that is in line with that vision. I call that being a lionheart, and I believe we all have a lionheart within us.

Each day when Mary gets to work, she is screened for COVID-19. She brings her backpack packed with protective supplies, changes of clothes, and her new facemask. The wave of coronavirus cases hasn’t hit her hospital yet, but they are expecting it. She and her colleagues wait for what’s coming together. They know hard decisions are on the horizon and can see from the stories told from staff at hospitals far from here that there’s no way to be fully prepared. But for now, this lionhearted lady and her team are focused on providing comfort to the patients in their rooms who are not allowed any visitors. The team believes it’s their place to change the current reality for the guests in their hospital, and so they take action in the ways that they can.

When Mary walks in to see her patients with her mask on, she chooses to crack a joke to ease their minds for a moment. “I hope I don’t creep you out too much in this thing,” she says. “I can’t hear you.” They say back. She sits in union meetings discussing budgets, advocating for funds for protective gear. She’s envisioning and leading in the small ways and the big ways. Mary’s lionheart is beating like a snare drum, but no matter who or where we are, we all have opportunities to let our lionheart lead.

Shine your beacon light on what you’re doing well.

You know how you hope your kids will always be their own biggest fans? Now’s your chance to show ‘em how it’s done. It would be so easy to focus in tight on the ways you think you’re failing right now, wouldn’t it? Instead, we can choose to lead our kids toward a future where they’ll forgive their own mistakes and celebrate small victories that will keep them going through hard times by doing that ourselves, right in front of them.

Adopt a learner’s mind.

We are all new to this. We are envisioning what it looks like to work from home, or to push through our fear and go to work every day to deliver an essential service. We are imagining and creating new ways to school or unschool our kids, occupy our own family bubbles, and grieve the loss around us while taking consistent steps into an unknown future. As my friend Tedd  says, “Can you imagine if we came down on a child as they learned to walk, the way we come down on ourselves as we learn something new?” Give yourself the grace that you give your kids, and they will learn to do that too.

Find your sass.

Look for the way your bun sticks out of your helmet. Strut in your all-day sweatpants or make light of your lack of makeup. It is okay to be imperfect. If you’re not relaxing your expectations on yourself yet, it’s time to own the messiness.

Lean on your pride.

It takes courage for many of us to ask for help, and vision to know who and what to ask for. If you are grieving, if you have experienced loss, if you are at the end of your rope: there is a whole pride of lionhearts just waiting for you to say the word. Whether or not you consider yourself a leader, there’s a time for everyone to follow.

Lionheart with a lowercase L (just as fierce, just not as loud)

Imagine things that don’t exist as a family.

Add to the rainbows, teddy bears, sidewalk chalk, and music on balconies. What is something small that you can dream up together that might make the world a softer, more connected place for the people walking by?

Redesign and iterate.

Many families have let go of the schedule they’d planned at the beginning because, well, a wheel or two fell off the wagon. That can be a win! Understand what doesn’t work, eliminate it, learn from it, and success-solve by starting with the parts that did work as you create the next iteration of your plan. Create a new vision for this stay-at-home time, and embrace that your fam doesn’t have to get things right the first time, or the second, or even the third.

Speak from your lionheart.

Speak in front of each other with love and respect. There’s so much to ingest and process right now, and some of it may come out in front of the kids. My partner and I give each other a wink when one of us goes off the rails and starts talking “grown-up” in front of the kids. That lovingly means to put a cork in it and save it for after bedtime.

Lionheart with a big L (fierce and loud and for the WE)

Be vulnerable.

Because you know that doesn’t make you smaller. Share things with your community that are hard and be real about what this is all like so that others know they’re not alone.

Put yourself out there.

If you have the capacity, consider how you might imagine something that doesn’t exist and do the thang.

  • Make a list of your passions. What have you always loved to do, always wanted to do, are naturally drawn to, or have a proclivity toward?
  • Make a list of the world’s needs.
  • Compare the two and identify where they overlap. Use that Venn Diagram center to define your goal.
  • Create a date by when you’ll put your vision into the world.
  • Find someone you can be accountable to and share your plan with them.

Envisioning who we want to be takes effort. Leadership exists in a series of small moments during which we choose to live heart-first. There are so many things about this time that can make us feel powerless, and as a people, we are experiencing great loss and grief. Through all of this, let’s honor the thousands of Marys in our country who are facing down uncertainty with a backpack full of supplies, a facemask, and a bun sticking out of the top by letting them inspire us to be true to our lionhearts too.

Marie McDonald is Galileo’s VP of Communications & Southern California Operations. When she’s not heading up camp operations, Marie loves to write, paint, and adventure with her fam.