I have a favorite Aunt.  I know it is not polite to pick favorites, but if you met my Aunt Loralee, she would become your favorite too.  She is Aunt Loralee to my two sisters and I, but she is Sister Loreen Spaulding to the world.  Sister Loreen Spaulding of the School Sisters of Notre Dame.

Last week my Aunt Loralee turned 80 years old.  Last week Sister Loreen also celebrated her 60th Jubilee as a Catholic nun.

At her jubilee reception in Wilton, Connecticut I told this story to friends and family gathered at the convent.

Once upon a time, long ago there was a young couple that was recently married.   This young couple was poor.  They had nothing. Very few possessions.  But they had each other.  And they had a love for each other that was beyond beautiful. They were about to celebrate their first holiday together and they wanted to buy each other a special gift.  But they had no money.

The husband wanted to buy his bride a brush so he could comb her beautiful long blonde hair.

The wife wanted to buy her husband a leather band for the one possession he had – a band-less watch that his deceased father gave to him years ago.

Because of their sacrificial love, the husband sold his father’s watch to buy his beloved wife a brush.  And the wife cut and sold all her hair, so she could buy her devoted husband a leather band for his watch.

When they each opened their gifts…………well, you know the ending!

What a meaningful lesson on not only sacrificial love, but sacrificial service.

At twenty years old, my Aunt Loralee cut her long brown hair and sold all her possessions.  And she has lived a life of sacrificial love and service ever since.

I remember when I was eight years old.  My Aunt Loralee was spending the night at our home in Suffern, New York – which was only one hour drive from JFK International Airport.  She was leaving the following morning to begin her twelve-year mission in Monrovia, Liberia, West Africa.  It was my job to help her bring her suitcase into our home. I’d never seen a suitcase so big.  And the darn thing weighed more than me!

When my aunt opened her suitcase, it was FILLED with pencils and pens and school supplies and kid’s t-shirts and candy and medical supplies.  I naively asked my aunt, “Where are all your clothes and personal belongings”?  “I’m wearing them”, she replied.

I will never forget that day.  It was the first time a selfish eight-year-old boy began to understand what servant leadership is all about – selling your hair, letting go of your most prized possession and going to West Africa with only the clothes on your back.

I want to become more like my Aunt Loralee.  I wish I had half her servant’s heart.

I wonder how many marriages would thrive, what companies could achieve, what communities would flourish and what leaders would contribute if they had half of Aunt Loralee’s servant heart.

I challenge you today to do something at work that is deeply meaningful for a customer, client or co-worker. I challenge you today to look at your spouse with a giving heart. I challenge you today to help and serve a neighbor. I challenge you today to ask yourself this question: “On my 80th birthday, what will my friends, family and former work colleagues say about me?

You don’t have to cut your hair, sell all your possessions, become a nun or even move to Liberia, West Africa to make a meaningful impact on the lives of others.  But you do have to look at what’s in your suitcase – and what’s in your heart.  Because that is what decides the kind of leader you will be.