A Conversation on Gratitude with Executive Director Maggie Waples
By Sarah Anderson, Senior Communications Manager
Maggie Waples shamelessly plays favorites with her holidays, and without a doubt, Thanksgiving takes the cake — or, more fittingly, the pecan pie — for the winning spot. And while Maggie is no stranger to the kitchen and is hardly intimidated by cooking a massive feast for her entire family, it’s not the menu that makes her feel so tied to this day of thanks. Maggie has seen a lot of transition in her life as of late, which includes moving to a new city to begin her tenure as executive director of Kappa Delta Sorority and Foundation, living in an Airbnb until her Memphis home is ready to move in, and selling her house in Indianapolis. But through the excitement and exhaustion of the whole process, Maggie knew how important it was — and is — to keep gratitude at the forefront of her priorities. We sat down with Maggie to learn more about her love of cooking, her thoughts on confidence, and what she’s most thankful for this year.
Sarah Anderson: You’ve seen a lot of changes in your life in the past year: moving back to Memphis, starting your new role as executive director of the Sorority and Foundation. Can you tell us a little about what that was like for you?
Maggie Waples: When I look back, I reflect on coming off 18 months of completely standing still during the pandemic, not traveling and sitting still for the first time in years. And then turning around and moving to a new city, living in an Airbnb, and moving fast, so it was like upending my life in a very significant way. It is both exciting and slightly terrifying. But I think you don’t say ‘yes’ to this amount of change unless it’s something that you really want. This is a transition that I’ll be in the middle of for a year or more. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and I always make sure to bring along my dear friend ‘patience’ with me.
SA: What helped you find the confidence to make these big life changes?
MW: No one is born with all the confidence that they need. Confidence comes with experience and being willing to make mistakes. There’s no magic to it, just practice.
I remember in high school, I was lacking in self-confidence, and then I stepped on the college campus for the first time, went through recruitment, joined Kappa Delta, was given leadership opportunities and then went on to travel as a leadership development consultant… All those things really helped me build confidence at a time in my life where I really didn’t feel very self-confident.
I keep thinking about when I decided to move to L.A. for graduate school. My mom and I got in the car and drove from Mobile, Alabama, with no cell phones, no internet, just a map and a very carefully scheduled travel plan from my father (which we completely threw out when we got to El Paso). And I think, ‘Well, that was pretty bold and confident to do that.’ I believe all that travel for KD gave me a lot of the confidence I’d need to make that move.
SA: Why do you think it’s important that we focus on gratitude during times of transition?
MW: I fundamentally believe that life provides exactly what you need even when it doesn’t look like what you expected it to look like. I’ve learned that I’m not really in control of what happens. Appreciation and trusting whatever comes your way helps release any expectations, because life is going to deliver ups and downs.
I think about our house in Memphis. We bought it when we first moved here fifteen years ago and kept it as a rental property when we moved back to Indianapolis in 2013. In 2019, we experienced a devastating flood that destroyed the entire first floor of our Memphis property. It was difficult to be thankful in that circumstance, but it taught me important lessons in navigating big change, challenges and being open and creative in how we achieved our goals for our family. Despite the damage, we held onto that house. And now, we have a home to move back to in Memphis two miles from Kappa Delta headquarters. You just never know what will come from change.
Everything rises and falls, and sometimes it’s hard to be thankful in certain situations. Love and appreciate everything anyway, both the light and the dark. Practice this every day. And call your friends and sisters when you need some support.
SA: As we approach this season of gratitude, what are you most thankful for?
MW: This might sound unexpected, but I’m thankful for curiosity. During the pandemic, I was forced to slow down and sit still, which was a little rough the first few months. Then I discovered I had all this time to learn new things. The world is so vast and interesting. I’m grateful for my curiosity.
I’m also thankful for my husband and his support, even when it meant being without me for extended periods and uprooting our lives as I made the move to Memphis. It was a generous choice and demonstrated how well we’ve learned how to navigate life’s hard sacrifices.
And I am grateful for the talented group of people that work on staff. What we do matters and makes a difference. I think the word I’ve used to describe this experience so far is ‘abundance,’ and I’ll stick with that word. I’m grateful for that.
SA: What about Kappa Delta are you most grateful for?
MW: You know, this is a business, but this is also a sisterhood. I love that. It makes it a really special place to be. I’m so excited that so many of our women today are leading in their communities, they’re leading in their organizations and corporations, they’re leading in their families. They’re modeling that behavior, leading by example.
And, I have to add, I love the random notes I get in the mail from Kappa Delta sisters, little notes from KDs all over the country, some of whom I’ve never even met, encouraging me. I save every single one. And, you know, they always arrive just at the right moment when I need something to lift me up.
SA: We know you’re passionate about cooking! Do you have any plans for your Thanksgiving feast?
MW: We always host Thanksgiving in our home with a sizable group of family members. That will change after this year, so we look forward to one more year. There’s always too much food! We also celebrate four birthdays in the month, and we celebrated my husband’s milestone birthday in early November. I do make my famous chocolate birthday cake several times in November, since we have four birthdays. I also love soups and chilis in the fall, so I’ll make my ‘almost-award-winning’ chili, gumbo and seafood chowder.