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Our Present for the Future

Shirley Phillips
Winnipeg Manitoba Canada
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 38 No. 1, February-March 2002, pp. 3-4.

Several years ago, I attended an Area Conference with the theme “Parenting…Our present for the future.” I have often thought since of the many layers and meanings of that title and how much it speaks to all of us as parents, as volunteers, and as Leaders. “Present” can mean this moment in time or it can mean a gift. Let’s consider both meanings within the theme of the future we are creating together.

When we each chose to become involved in La Leche League, we chose an overall direction—membership and then leadership. We recognized something in La Leche League that spoke to our deep longings of who we wanted to be as mothers, as people, and what we wanted to give back as volunteers. We had some wonderful guideposts as we set out in leadership—La Leche League philosophy and the experiences of other mothers who had started down the path before us—Leaders in our local Group, and Leaders we met at District Workshops and Area Conferences.

We each created our own paths as Leaders—through all our present moments helping mothers nurse their babies and learning from each one; trying out new meeting ideas; working with other Leaders, Leader Applicants, and members; and learning from our mistakes as well as our successes.

And of course, we were changed by the journey. Have you ever wondered who you might be and what you might be doing now, if you had not gone to that first LLL meeting? If you had not chosen the path of La Leche League leadership? LLL in your hometown and Area has changed because of the particular style and skills you have brought to your Group and Area. You have in turn influenced mothers to think about leadership. You have been a part of changing other lives. The ripples of change flow ever outward.

Sometimes, though, we see how much is still to be done. When we see the contrast between the world we envision where there would be no question—or even any thought—of nourishing a baby physically and emotionally in any way except at the breast, the reality of the world around us and our work as Leaders can feel overwhelming. Sometimes when we see the variety of needs for Leaders to fill Area positions and no one stepping forward, we may worry about the future of LLL.

Well, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. How do we become the best Leaders we can be? One book, one article, one District Workshop or Area Conference, one conversation with a fellow Leader—one step at a time—one present moment at a time.

How do we change the world into one where nurturing a baby at the breast is the norm? By doing what we are doing with joy, confidence, and enthusiasm. Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has.” Never doubt—you are making a difference.

Those who were able to attend and participate in the International Management Symposium (IMS) in Chicago, Illinois, USA in July 2001 experienced new ideas, fresh approaches, and deep, thought-provoking conversations that expanded their horizons. Although attendees may have felt exhausted, they were asked to stretch and think in whole new ways. They were challenged to dig deeper and examine previously held beliefs about the work they do as administrators. Those administrators’ commitment to ongoing learning is part of their present to LLL. Your commitment to ongoing learning is part of your present to LLL.

Our total gift of leadership, whether within the Group, Area or Division/Affiliate circle, is made up of uncounted tiny precious moments in time. Times when we stayed up late or got up early to attend to that one more bit of correspondence; times when we worked hard to let go of personal upsets in our Leader work for the greater good of LLL; times when we agreed to take on another task when inside, we were feeling insecure with our abilities; times we researched and prepared for a session at a District Workshop or Conference; times when we listened with our hearts and our minds to another Leader going through a difficult experience; times when we reached out to support another Leader; and times when we laughed with each other until the tears ran down our faces. Tiny precious moments of giving to each other, one woman to another, from the understanding in our hearts of a common purpose and heritage in La Leche League.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin wrote, “The most satisfying thing in life is to have been able to give a large part of one’s self to others.” Leaders like each of you do that day in and day out. The world is a better place because you are in it.

And it is not just to the future of the mothers we touch as Leaders that we are giving our present work and commitment. We give our present gifts to ourselves, to our own future as people. Making the choice to become a Leader has enriched my life in countless ways from the mundane of learning to type and then to use computers and email, to the deep sense of support for the mothering path I have chosen, to the company of incredible women and the richness of lifelong friends.

Why do we stay involved in La Leche League? I think it is not only for the rewards of volunteering in a very personal way that makes a difference in people’s lives; it is also for the deep friendships that enrich our own lives—the memories of wonderful women who have touched us in so many ways. I think it’s because we like ourselves, and we like the work we accomplish together, when we’re near each other, whether that is by regular post, email, newsletter articles, or in our thoughts.

“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift…that’s why it’s called the present.”

How often do you think of yourself as a gift? Well you are. You are a priceless gift not only to your families but also to La Leche League and to our world. Your presence at any La Leche League gathering—workshops, Area Conferences, administrative meetings, LLLI Conferences—is a gift. A gift to yourself, to your co-workers, to your Area, Division, or Affiliate and to the whole that is La Leche League and the mothers and babies we serve.

“The future is not some place we are going to, but one we are creating. The paths are not to be found but made and the activity of making them changes both the maker and the destination.”

Together, we are creating these new paths into our common future in La Leche League. I am thankful that each of you, in your own way, is a part of my life. You are a gift in my past, my present, and in my future. I am honored to be an LLL Leader.

For me, the following story sums up the uniqueness of La Leche League friendships. Like the women in this story, we don’t need to speak the same language for we speak in the language of the heart. The Mirror of Friendship by Elizabeth Moske On frequent trips to Temuco, an old Araucanian Indian woman always used to bring my mother a few partridge eggs or a handful of berries. My mother spoke no Araucanian beyond the greeting “mai’mai,” and the old woman knew no Spanish, but she drank tea and ate cake with many an appreciative giggle. We girls stared fascinated at her layers of colorful hand-woven clothing, her copper bracelets and coin necklaces and we vied with each other in trying to memorize the singsong phrase she always spoke on rising to leave. At last we learned the words by heart and repeated them to the missionary who translated them for us. They have stayed in my mind as the nicest compliment ever uttered: “I shall come again, for I like myself when I’m near you.”



How do we change the world into one where nurturing a baby at the breast is the norm? By doing what we are doing with joy, confidence, and enthusiasm. Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has.” Never doubt—you are making a difference.


Shirley Phillips and her husband, Don, live in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada and have three children (Sean, 30; Jennifer, 28; and Andrea, 26; two are married) and are the proud grandparents of three grandchildren. Shirley has been a Leader for 27 years, working in the Leader Accreditation Department for nine years, a Human Relations Enrichment Instructor for five years, and served on the LLL Canada Board of Directors for eight years, seven as Chairperson. She became the Affiliate Liaison in 1997 and was hired as Deputy Director for LLLI in 1999.

Last updated 11/18/06 by jlm.
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