Stepping Out of Line

Maria Shriver recently wrote about women she admires who have stepped out of line in one way or another. They included some familiar names:

– Greta Thunberg (the 16 year old Swedish student who challenged world leaders to address climate change at the U.N. Climate Action Summit)
– Alex Bornstein (the actress whose Emmy award winning speech honored her Holocaust surviving mother)
-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (bringing forth impeachment hearings against President Trump)

I reflected after reading her article because it made me think…how often do we really step out of line and act in a courageous, status-quo bucking way? It made me think of Rosa Parks who refused to move to the back of a segregated Montgomery public bus. While she was lauded as the “first woman of the Civil Rights movement,” her actions in that moment were revolutionary and dangerous.

Kathrine Switzer, first woman to run a marathon. Despite being told by her coach that women are “too fragile to run a marathon” and having to register for the Boston Marathon under the name K.V. Switzer…and finished. Afterward, Boston Athletic Association director Will Cloney was asked his opinion of Switzer competing in the race. Cloney said, “Women can’t run in the Marathon because the rules forbid it. Unless we have rules, society will be in chaos. I don’t make the rules, but I try to carry them out. We have no space in the Marathon for any unauthorized person, even a man. If that girl were my daughter, I would spank her.”

Likewise, my long time colleague “R” who went public in a courtroom to identify and help convict her rapist years after an assault. She regularly takes to the social media waves and shares her story, what I consider to be an extremely vulnerable act of both healing and empathy. My guess is that others who have heard her story have seen her as a role model in many respects and have moved forward with reports of similar assaults.

Stepping out of line is often the only way to get something done. Maybe that something is righting a wrong. Maybe its finding justice. Maybe its simply about doing right rather than being right. But what make stepping out of line so very personal to me is the cost of the actions.

Speaker Pelosi has received death threats and has been the victim of incredibly nasty responses from the leader of the free world. Parks was jailed and charged with disorderly conduct. What is somewhat humorous is that when told by the police officer who boarded the bus to remove her and threatened to arrest her, she flatly responded, ‘You may do that.”

When have you stepped out of line? Or have you?

I have many times:
– to the teacher who asked me to stop talking to a classmate who wasn’t present when I sat alone in a corner in American Lit class
– to the parent of a high school classmate to said I would never amount to much after high school
– to the Econ teacher in college who made a pass at me
– to the Board who wanted me to ignore a collectively bargained agreement with a teacher’s union

There are a few more that are a little too premature to talk about….yet.

But it makes me realize….stepping out of line and speaking up, doing right, representing those without the voice, and being true to our ethical beliefs is about seizing moments and doing what is right, and often times necessary.

For most of us, these situations strengthen our resolve and our confidence. They help us see ourselves as capable, smart, self-assured, resilient….and strong.

It is a privilege to have a voice and to use it for good, both in the micro and macro-environments where we exist. So the next time you feel a line and teeter on the edge, weighing the implications of stepping over, dare to take the risk. Cross over the line. Go to the other side.

And remember…others are watching, and they will be inspired and will think twice about doing the same thing.