Being a Witness

Part 1: Being a Great Team Member: Owning Your Space

There he was, Lucas Macdonald, standing in the middle of the street.  There I was, on my bicycle stopped at the traffic light, tears streaming down my face.


It was a little after 8:15 AM at the corner of Anderson Road and Rutgers Drive in Davis, California.  I was on my morning bike ride.  The school bell at the elementary school across the street would sound in less than ten minutes.  Parents and children – walking, biking and driving – were arriving en mass.  Commuters were rushing to work.  University students were on the way to classes.  The street was full.  It was chaos.


Except for Lucas.  He literally stopped traffic.  And how he did it moved me to tears.


Lucas Macdonald is 27.  He’s not someone you would likely notice if he passed by on the street.  His hair is held back in a long pony tail.  He rides a bike to work, in shorts and a black shirt, barefoot.  Once at work – a job he’s held for over five years – he changes into sandals, puts on his reflective vest and pulls out the tool of his trade – a beat up, hand-held, red stop sign.


Lucas is the neighborhood crossing guard.  And he owns this intersection.  It’s his job to keep the crossing children – sometimes attentive, sometimes distracted – safe.  He manages the traffic lights, trots (yes, literally trots) out to his spot in the middle of the street all the while holding his stop sign high over his head.  Back and forth from north-south to east-west, he speeds, leading the way across the street and holding back traffic.  He exudes an easy confidence and a relaxed energy that is a joy to watch.


Owning your space is critical to being a successful team member.  According to Shambhala Buddhism,[1] there are several aspects to owning your space (or “arranging the throne of the king” as it’s called).

  1. Be a citizen.  Know you belong to the team and the people who compose it.
  2. Take your place.  You have a role on the team, know it, claim it and bring your whole-hearted energy to it.
  3. Know your importance.  You don’t have to be the official leader to be important.  Each team member has an integral part to play.


Lucas epitomizes these principles.  He belongs to the community of that intersection.  If he were absent, he’d be missed – not just by the kids he protects, but by the people who drive by and love watching him at work.  He owns his work, in a way that I’ve never seen another crossing guard own the work before.  His display of energy and joy moved me to tears that morning.  It’s not a possessive “owning” that would distract from the job, but a joyful embodiment of it.  A way that fills the space fully.  Finally, he knows his importance.  It was really quite simple.  When I told him how impressed I was by his ownership of the intersection, he laughed, “Well if I don’t own the intersection, the cars won’t stop.”


Think of the teams you are a member of.  Do you own your place on them?  If you do, then know you are a thing of beauty…that can stop traffic, literally and metaphorically.

[1] A form of secular Tibetan Buddhism.

This article was published in the Davis Enterprise:

Judith MacBrine dba The Mirror Group © Copyright 2012

Wag More

Last year’s summer vacation took us to Asheville, NC, for a week of exploring new territory.  It’s the kind of vacation I love – lots of local art, beautiful scenery, good food (pig ribs, sweet potato fries, sweet potato pancakes, pecan pie), and bluegrass music to boot.  Oh lordy, what a fine week.

One thing, more than any other, captured my imagination.  I saw it on the bumper of an open air Jeep parked in the square in front of the Tupelo Honey Café.  “wag more, bark less,” it read.wag more bark less white words on blue background

I looked all over Asheville for that bumper sticker.  It wasn’t until Christmas shopping at a Seattle pet store that I finally found it.  “wag more, bark less.” And for cat lovers there was, “purr more, hiss less.”  I couldn’t wait to get home and proudly adorn my bumper with this message – my first permanently affixed bumper sticker ever.  More than once, having “wag more, bark less” on the back of my car has helped me refrain from flipping off some driver who unknowingly offended me.

Today on my daily four-mile bike ride around Davis, I saw a car outside the Davis United Methodist Church proudly sporting my bumper sticker. ”wag more, bark less.”  This was the first one I’d seen in Davis and one of the few I’ve seen since being home from Ashevillle.  “Wow, I wonder if this person has seen my bumper sticker too!  I wonder if they’re catching on.”

I continued my ride down Anderson Road, past the driveway to the shopping center where we buy groceries.  You’re never sure, when on a bicycle, whether people see you.  I waved and smiled at the car waiting to move onto Anderson Road.  “Hello.  Here I am.  I see you.”  A young woman in a headscarf looked at me from the driver side of her car.  She flashed a smile so beautiful my eyes began to sting with tears.  Then she waved back.  “Yes, I see you.  I’m here too.”  I continued my bike ride, smiling, thinking of this woman and her beautiful smile.

Hi.  I’m here.  I see you.

Wag more.


Judith MacBrine dba The Mirror Group © Copyright 2011