To say that I owe much of who I am to my mother is an understatement. Not only can I trace most of my personal strengths back to my mom and her loving influence in my life, but the traits I still aspire to achieve are quite evident in her character.

She taught me that I am responsible for myself, my thoughts and my actions.

I clearly remember getting into a fight with my brother, Rodrigo, when I was probably six or seven. I was angry because of something Rodrigo had done, and I lashed out at him. My mom chided me for lashing out (though, I am positive she also reprimanded him; I just have no memory of it). My answer was understandable, for well, you know, a seven year old, “But Mom, he makes me so mad.” To this day, I remember her answer and her high expectations of me before I could even multiply and divide: “No one makes you do anything. You choose how you respond.”

My mother showed me what a gracious and strong leader looks like.

My mother is the director of an international school in Bogota, Colombia. She has been leading the school for nearly 25 years, and by any account, the school has flourished. She is known by her employees as a compassionate, fair woman; she is an incredible brainstormer, and her creative problem-solving skills are impressive, to say the least. She is able to navigate sticky situations, maintaining her composure. Her desire to grow and develop people, not just the school, has made her a gracious leader, offering second and third chances. About six months ago, I read Tribal Leadership and was astounded by how frequently I found the book describing my mother whenever it talked about Stage 4 leaders.

Her life proved to me that what you do matters, but who you love matters more.

My mother’s career has been a rich and quite rewarding one for her. I know that she wakes up each morning knowing that her labor is meaningful. She has impacted hundreds (if not thousands!) of lives by now, and she has done it all excellently. However, beyond her day job, I have seen her love, and invest, and serve people in every stage of life: her patient love poured out for my grandma as she has aged; her commitment to communicate with and support my brother and me; her countless hours of free counseling at our dining room table; the infinite number of meals prepared for unexpected guests. She has lived a life of service, loving others, loving family, loving strangers. I have seen her live purposefully, not just in her professional life, but in every realm of her activity.

So, Mom, this is to you… if I can one day be half the woman, mother, leader and wife that you are, I will have accomplished MUCH. Happy Mother’s Day.