On May 3, 1980, a thirteen-year-old youth softball player named Cari Lightner was killed by a drunk driver in Fair Oaks, California. Cari and a friend were walking to a church carnival when Clarence Bush’s car swerved out of control and struck the teen from behind.
In the days that followed, Candy Lightner, Cari’s mother, would come to learn that Bush had a lengthy history of arrests for driving impaired, including a similar hit-and-run drunk driving charge from less than a week earlier.
An investigating officer told Candy that drunk driving was rarely prosecuted with severity and that Bush would likely receive little to no jail time for his offense—an atrocity that outraged the grieving mother.
Determined to spare other parents from having to experience the pain of losing a child to such an avoidable horror and to right what she believed to be an unacceptable wrong, Candy Lightner founded Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).
Her crusade to end drunk driving offers three invaluable “good teammate” lessons:
1. Don’t underestimate the impact of one good teammate.
MADD has grown to become one of the largest and most influential non-profits in the entire world. At the time of her daughter’s death, Candy Lightner was a divorced, single mother of three, supporting her family as a part-time real estate agent. She wasn’t wealthy. She wasn’t famous. She had no influential platform. But she was motivated to create change.
That motivation led Candy and her MADD volunteers to successfully lobby for mandatory minimum sentences for repeat drunk driving offenders, raise the legal drinking age to 21, and lower the legal blood alcohol content level to .08 nationally.
Too often team members default to apathy because they mistakenly think their individual efforts won’t make a difference. Candy Lightner is proof of the impact one motivated individual can make.
2. With the right mindset, tragedy can give birth to victory.
Candy turned her anger into action. Instead of a woe-is-me attitude, she embraced a we-can-do-better mindset. She used the tragedy of her daughter’s death to save the lives of countless others.
In 1980, the year her daughter was killed, over 27,000 drunk driving fatalities occurred in the United States. That number has steadily declined since MADD’s inception, with the most recent statistics showing drunk driving fatalities dropping an astounding 65 percent since then.
Competitive teams will inevitably experience losses, setbacks, and disappointments. Whenever these happen, good teammates don’t wallow in self-pity, point fingers, or abandon ship. They use the experience to bring their teams closer together. Their approach turns setbacks into comebacks.
3. Relentlessness leads to cultural changes.
Of all the good that has come from Candy’s crusade, the shift in cultural perspective toward drunk driving is the most profound. Past generations viewed drunk driving through a much softer lens.
Today, designated drivers, self-restraint, and harsh penalties for DUI offenders are the expectation. Alerting others to sobriety checkpoint locations is now considered taboo and will get you chastised on social media.
A relentless commitment to embracing team standards will lead to a positive change in team culture. Good teammates are catalysts for change because they dedicate themselves to consistently doing what’s best for their team.
As always…Good teammates care. Good teammates share. Good teammates listen. Go be a good teammate.