Leadership Lessons from the Mitten Swooper

A couple of months ago I received the following letter from a young student:

Dear John,

Thanks for coming to our school. I’ve been thinking about changing the world… not the whole world… just some of it. The halls at our school are a mess. Everybody leaves their shoes and mittens all over the place. It is dangerous for anybody who is pushing a stroller or in a wheelchair to get around.

I have decided to become the “Mitten Swooper”. Every morning I swoop up all of the mittens and shoes in the hallway and make a path. It is a big job so I got some friends to help. It’s going well.



This is just one of thousands of electronic and handwritten postcards that we at Together We Rock! have received from individuals in schools, corporations and community organizations who are taking one step to create a more accessible and inclusive world. I read every one of these messages and am continually blown away by the leadership demonstrated by the writers in creating extraordinary communities. The messages from young children are particularly heartfelt. They are often handwritten, with unique ways of spelling and writing words. The letters are all special, but every so often there is one – like Jenny’s – that is particularly inspiring. The idea of a team of little “mitten swoopers” energized every morning to make a difference speaks to the potential in all of us to demonstrate leadership.

Almost everyone I meet supports the idea of an accessible and inclusive community and voices its importance. But the true test of inspiring change is rooted in action. Action is what turns possibilities into realities.

The “mitten swooper” and her friends believed in possibilities. Together they decided that it was not enough to talk about an accessible and inclusive world: they were going to make it happen. They took a problem they could handle and set out to create a better school community. Now, as a team, they work continuously every morning after the bell rings to make the school corridors accessible for all.

So… how many people does it take to make a difference and create a more accessible and inclusive community? Just one “mitten swooper.”