deception pass Washington

Category: Social Responsbility Page 2 of 3

“I don’t care who started it…”

“But Mom, she started it!” ” I don’t care who started it, I’m finishing it!” So went the recollection of my sister Betty, remembering childhood sibling rivalries and her dismay that mom wouldn’t let her explain why she was right. She said it wasn’t until she had kids of her own that she understood. The sound of two little kids arguing incessantly would drive her crazy and she realized mom was wise to “end it.”

Imagine how having a different perspective can change your mind. Too often we get wrapped up in our own thoughts, our own assumptions, our own biases, that we fail to realize that we may be missing pieces of the picture. We see conflict as a in or lose, heroes and villains, black and white with no shades of gray. We want to stick up for our ‘friends’ oppose our ‘enemies’  and get everyone to take sides since we are convinced ‘diplomacy’ won’t do any good.  

We are seeking quick and tidy solutions to messy conflicts that have existed and festered for decades if not hundreds of years.  In our shortsighted views and we all back differing sides and seek ‘victory’ and ‘justice’, the only things that are thriving are the morgues and graveyards. While the debates go on about who is right and who is wrong, death and disease inhabit the cities and villages. Men, women, and children suffer death from weapons in the sky and on the earth. Hospitals, homes, schools, and even places of worship are no refuge. Many have to flee their homes to foreign lands and even there, discrimination and abuse follow them.

Isn’t it time to echo my mom’s words “I don’t care who started it”? Isn’t it time to call for a time out so that we can listen to everyone and start building bridges that can bring us together and quit building walls that only divide us? Can we set aside our blaming, biases, and backgrounds in order to consider that we might not know it all?

I know that most of us have no ability to alter the outcomes of world conflict, except to petition our representatives. But I believe that our influence in the world starts right in our backyards. If we can promote peace where we are, perhaps that effort may serve to affect ever-widening spheres of community, just as a stone dropped into a pond sends ripples out in all directions.
It begins with you and it begins with me, and it starts right where we are. In times of conflict let us take a time out, speak up and say “I don’t care who started it…”

Photo by Prostock Studio

Be The Reason…

“You’re the reason society is messed up!” “You made me so angry that I lost control.” “I can’t help myself when people dress the way they do.”

You’ve heard things like this. The Blame Game. Blast someone else, for whatever reason, to excuse your bad behavior or for ‘society’s ‘ collapse into madness. Failing to open up to our own failings, our own mistakes is a cowardly but all too human trend. Seeking a simple solution to complex problems is an easy out. We need to stop that.

But we also need to do something else. We need to be the reason for good. We need to both recognize when others have been a positive influence on us and carry that forward to influence others. It doesn’t take a lot. Have you ever noticed reflective smiles? You smile at someone and they most often will smile back. And vice-versa. We often think that we have to do something big to make a difference, but the truth is, it is the little things that add up to a lot. Just taking notice of others struggling and offering help.

We also sometimes think we have to fix others, to eliminate their problems to make a difference. And there are times when solutions and answers are needed. But there are many more times that all they need is to know someone cares, someone will listen, someone sees them.

Always Ask Questions

What is one thing that is typical of children and teenagers especially? They ask questions. Often repeated questions, why’s? building upon why’s? seemingly without end. For some, it can get frustrating—imagine the rattled parent saying “just because!” But that is how we learn, not with memorizing for a test. Yes, we do need to learn a base level of knowledge, so as to not reinvent the proverbial wheel. But even then we have discovered in more recent years that a lot of what we thought we knew in that way really was quite different. And we found out there were a lot of things that we should have known were not communicated to us.

We confuse schooling with education. We think that if you spend enough time in the classroom being taught and passing tests, that you are educated. But if it is just memorized for a test it hasn’t been learned it will quickly fade from memory. But if you are taught to learn, to discover, to research for yourself, those things will stick with you for a lifetime.

In addition to asking questions, remember to explore. To take yourself out into the world and find answers or new truth by your own experience. Let your walking be your asking. Widen your perspective -—who knows you might end up with more questions.

Be the Change

Have you ever seen trouble in the world and wondered how will we change it? Do you ever wonder why nobody seems to care?’ Are you ever overwhelmed by hate and violence, poverty and sickness, despair and loneliness?’ Sometimes the world’s problems are overwhelming and we feel so inadequate. That is normal. But I think part of the problem is that we often think that we must do something big to really help and we get tired just thinking about it. But real change comes from many people doing the little things that add up to a lot.

And instead of waiting for change to come, or for some to come and help change, we need to be the change. If we see someone struggling, ask what we can do to help If we see someone being abused, speak up for them. Advocate for the marginalized. Be a friend to the friendless. Or something even smaller – if you see trash pick it up. Do what you can where you are. Encourage others to do the same, and be the example of positive change they can see and follow.

As Barack Obama said while running for President in 2008 -‘ be the change you want to see in the world’ Take personal responsibility by acting for change in your little corner of the world. And if we all did that, who knows what change might come?

Inspire Others

“People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.

Simon Sinek

One of my favorite message rocks is ‘Inspire’, seen above in the midst of
a few other stones. This is from a picture I took in late February. This gives you an idea of how the garden looks. It changes as people leave or take rocks—there were several new ones today. It is like an ongoing conversation of hope and inspiration.

The reason I like the ‘inspire’ stone is that I appreciate the inspiration
that I have received from singers, writers, and speakers. And in my speaking, I always try to inspire my listeners. I recently read a book called Find Your Why by Simon Sinek. He starts with “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe.” He explains organizations finding their ‘why’ to improve their business. But he also covers individuals finding their way. The ‘why’ is the purpose for which you do what you do. It gives passion to everything you do.

I have a work-in-progress version for me. I began my Toastmasters career by citing the 3-E’s that I saw as defining me: Exploration, Experimentation, and Expression. And I have realized that stories are a big part of my speeches. So, I see my ‘why’ this way—I seek to inspire others to explore, experiment, and express their stories so that together we can change the world.

So, what inspires you? What would you say is your ‘why?’ And what message would you want to write on a stone to place in this garden? Stay tuned for more pics and messages to come.

Kindness Rocks

As I take my daily walks locally I have seen much creativity involving stones and rocks. At the beach, as I walk along the seawall I see pictures painted on the rocks. In the forests, I have found decorated stones placed along the trails, some with encouraging words, some with just pictures.

And then by a nearby church, I saw the sign above—by a little ‘garden’ they had arranged. A garden with just stones for their Kindness Rocks project. There I found a collection of small smooth stones each with just a word or two painted on them. Words such as ‘imagine,” believe,’ ‘love,’ ‘leap,’ etc. I have continued to check it every so often over the past few months. Sometimes there are many, sometimes just a few, and sometimes you have to peek through the growing grass to see them.

I read the sign and realized why the numbers changed. It is a participation project. People are encouraged to take one for inspiration, share one for inspiration, or leave one to help our garden grow. Interestingly, the church also has an organic garden with beds available to rent so that people can raise their own vegetables and donate extra produce to a local food bank.

Over the next few days, I will be sharing some of the special stones I find meaningful. As I share them I would like you to consider if they resonate with you and if you might consider a similar project in your neighborhood. As the sign says “one message at just the right moment can change someone’s day, outlook, life!”

Why I Don’t Fear the Jury Summons

I just got a jury summons in the mail. This is not a new thing for me. It has happened a few times before. The first time was in Arizona. You had to call the night before your assigned date to see if the panel you were assigned to was needed for the day. This happened repeatedly—after the 3rd or 4th time I called the jury selection contact. When they heard I had been reassigned a few times they said I was released from the obligation to serve.

The next time was in Washington state. We had just moved and were in a different county. The summons was from the county we had moved out of and so I replied that we were no longer living in that county, so I was excused. My wife had also received a similar summons and was also excused. Later she got a summons from our new county and had to appear, but was ultimately not picked for a jury.

Several years later I received another summons and ended up reporting for duty. I only served a day and a half because I got weeded out from the jury pool for no stated reason (attorneys for both sides can eliminate a certain number of jury members for no stated reason).

The dates for which I am now summoned are about three weeks away, and again I have to call the night before to see if I am needed. I hope I am and I hope that I am picked for a jury. You might ask “but you have been fortunate to have escaped that duty, why would you want to do it?” First of all, it would be a new experience and I always love those—I am insatiably curious. Second, I can easily take the time off and it would be a nice diversion from my normal work routine.

But the most important reason is it is my civic duty. Just like voting and donating blood, serving on a jury is something I can do to give back to society and keep it growing and thriving. The Constitution guarantees that everyone has the right to a trial by a jury of their peers. How can that happen unless ordinary people like you and me serve as jurors?

Service to the community helps us to live out the purposes of the Constitution’s call to We The People to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, promote the general Welfare, insure domestic Tranquility, and promote the common defense. That is why people sign up for military service or submit to the draft when that is needed. That is why people give of their time, talents, money, and yes, blood, to help those less fortunate. That is why people come out in droves to vote despite the obstacles some others put in their way. And that is why I am eager to serve on a jury—so that someone, somewhere, who has been charged with a crime gets a fair impartial jury trial, by ordinary people who believe that everyone is presumed innocent unless proven guilty. That is one thing that is special about America, and something I am willing to step up and support with my time and effort.

Please consider serving whenever you get that jury summons. It could just make a difference in somebody’s life. Thanks.

Photo by j, Some Rights Reserved

What Mask Are You Wearing?

One of the constants of the past year-plus of the Covid pandemic has been the wearing of masks. From the industrial-strength N95s for the super vulnerable to the ubiquitous disposable light blue ones handed out at doctors’ offices, to the colorful washable new market products, we all had masks. At least for those of us who accepted the threat as real and participating in the precautionary trio of 20-second handwashes, 6-foot social distancing, and mask-wearing whenever we encountered anybody outside our home.

Whenever there is a danger it is wise to take precautions and be prepared, and it is important to consider the danger to others as well as to ourselves. Interestingly, along with these precautions helping to curb the spread of the Covid virus, it has also reduced the instances of colds, flu, and other respiratory-related illnesses during the pandemic. So we all benefit from this mask-wearing. And mask styling has fueled a whole new market.

But in the midst of this, there is one area to avoid wearing masks. Not physical but psychological mask-wearing. It can take a couple of different forms. One is self-promoting—trying to appear to be someone we are not. We put on fronts to impress others and gain an advantage in lieu of actual achievement. We often believe who we are is not enough, that people will not accept us as we are. So we put on a mask of appearing larger than life. It is “fake it till you make it” on steroids.

The other kind of mask-wearing is hiding. We put on a face of happiness— the “I’m fine” response, when in fact we are so far from fine. We respond to the social niceties with an automatic ‘okay.’ Part of the fault is that someone asking how we are is a greeting pattern that we have learned without expecting an honest response.

We need to first develop a good sense of who we really are and be okay with that, and then find those around us who will encourage us to simply be ourselves. And we need to have the wisdom to know when a mask is required (Covid) and when it is not (fear). So what kind of mask are you wearing?

Rule of the Road #10: Joy

joyful Asian girl in pink

The last of Pete Buttigeig’s Rules of the Road is Joy. At first, that might seem an odd choice after qualities like respect, truth, and discipline. Those are habits that we develop to make us more efficient and trusted. And joy is often dismissed as just a feeling, an emotion that is a luxury, not an essential.

But in our busy lives, we need some levity, some release of tension. Joy gives us that. As we heard growing up “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Whether we are young or older we all need breaks. Kids need recess and fun; grownups need humor, laughter, and joy.

So what is joy? And how is it different from happiness? Happiness comes from things that happen to us, things that give us a sense of pleasure. It tends to be short-lived, getting waylaid by the next bad happening.

Joy is a choice. We choose how we look at life, how we view the events that happen to us. It is controlling how we approach all those things we cannot control.

An optimist will see the proverbial glass as half full, while the pessimist will see the same glass as half empty. But there is a third view—to see that there is a glass to drink and that we can refill it. Joy is like that. It gives us another perspective through which to view life.

Joy is a choice. We choose how we look at life, how we view the events that happen to us. It is controlling how we approach all those things we cannot control.

An optimist will see the proverbial glass half full, while the pessimist will see the same glass as half empty. But there is a third view—to see that there is a glass to drink and that we can refill it. Joy is like that. It gives us another perspective through which to view life.

Joy may seem inconsequential compared to the other rules of the road, but in the daily grind, joy is like the leaven in baking that causes the loaves to rise. Joy and passion for life keep us young, and young at heart.

Photo by Dmitry Lobanov

Rule of the Road #9: Excellence

Olympic medalists - Rio 2016
Olympic Medalists, 200m freestyle, Rio 2016 (Chad le Clos of South Africa (L), Olympic champion Yang Sun of China, and Conor Dwyer of USA

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride

No, Princess Bride fans, the word is not “inconceivable.”  The word I’m talking about is excellence. In our hyper-competitive society, most people would think it means winning. And oh, don’t we all like winning? But think about the Olympic medal ceremonies. There are three medals given out: gold, silver, and bronze. Each person gets to stand on the podium and receive their medal. The gold medal winner gets the most attention but all three gave it their all, so all are recognized and applauded.

To strive for excellence is to give a full effort in pursuit of a goal To do the best that you can with what you have been given, whether it be brains, brawn, or opportunity. You may not always “win” but you can be proud of the effort you made. You don’t have to compare yourself to others. Your only competition is with yourself—seeking to keep growing.

Different people learn, grow, and achieve at different rates and in different circumstances. Take two students: one tries her best but only gets C’s. Another takes it easy, doesn’t try too hard, and yet gets B’s. Who did excellent work? The end result is not the final judge on character.

Excellence is one of the four core values of Toastmasters: Respect, Integrity, Service, and Excellence (RISE). While we do have contests, the real emphasis is to steadily improve our speaking and leadership skills. Everyone has their first time speaking in public and everyone has a different learning curve. But we all strive to do our best. That is what excellence means.

Photo by Leonard Zhukovsky

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