A Servant Leader’s Journey: Lessons From Life
By Jim Boyd
Published by Paulist Press (2008)
I did not know Jim Boyd as well as I would have liked to. Jim and his wife, Veleda, returned to the Mason area around the same time my parents began to set up for retirement in Hilda. The Boyd’s and my parents became friends and it is Jim’s friendship with my late father that gave me my lasting impression of Jim. When Jim’s first book, Companions of the Blest, came out he stopped by our store with some copies for us to sell. He also sat me down and in his understated and eloquent manner showed me the book’s acknowledgements, which mentioned my father and their too brief friendship as an influence on the work. This seemingly small token of appreciation spoke volumes to me about the kind of man Jim was. I suspect that on a subconscious level this is also why I didn’t pursue a closer relationship with Jim – he reminded me of my dad. And at the time those kinds of memories were still hard to bear. In the simplest terms, Jim reminded me of my dad in that he was a good man. And a couple of years later he reminded me of my father again in that a good man was taken away too early.
Faced with the knowledge that he had ALS Jim Boyd decided to put pen to paper and collect his thoughts about – and lessons learned from – life. As he says in his preface, Jim wrote this book for his four young grandchildren so that they would “know something of your Opa other than what you might remember.” But that doesn’t mean A Servant Leader’s Journey is for a readership of only four. Quite the contrary. Part personal journal, part family and world history lesson, part lecture (in a good way) on leadership and part love letter there is something for everyone here.
It must be said that an endeavor like this could veer off into unwanted territory – narcissism or a ‘woe is me’ attitude. But fear not, that wasn’t Jim and even if he did possess those traits he was too smart to have written in that style. No, Jim didn’t succumb to the prevailing attitude that seems to be engulfing our culture at every turn: hype. He understood that in real life the drama will unfold naturally. There’s no need to manufacture it like our football announcers try to do with every game (I myself watched at least five “games of the century” this past season alone). And the drama does unfold in A Servant Leader’s Journey. But it does so in an understated and inevitable manner. In short, it’s real.
As I read A Servant Leader’s Journey I admit that I kept going back to my own father. I wish he would have been able to do something like this for his grandchildren. As the years pass since his death I find myself studying his old paintings or drawings to try and gain more insight into the man. Even an article from a car club newsletter he wrote is something I cherish because it was his voice. Yes, I have the memories but sometimes the details are missing. A good friend and I still joke some twenty-five years later about the time we asked my dad what a manifold did. An hour later we had our answer. Even though it was about an internal combustion engine I still wish I had that in written form. I guess what I’m trying to say is that Jim Boyd has given his loved ones a great gift with this book. And even if you didn’t know Jim it’s still a gift because it’s filled with valuable lessons, interesting historical footnotes, good humor and great insights into life and its meaning.