The problem of homelessness is something I see almost every day living here in the Bay Area. I think one of the worst things we can do to other human beings is to not see them as fellow human beings. Meet Mark, one of the over 8,000 homeless people living in Oakland.
The next homeless person you see, maybe try talking with them and really see them as a human being. Give them some respect, and dignity, along with that granola bar, banana or cash.
What kind of society do you want to live in, and what role do you, individually, have to play in its creation?
I recently got back from a weeklong trip to Kauai that was lovely. It included spending a lot of time with my girlfriend’s cousins and aunties, eating lots of delicious food, and getting an excellent local-style experience. On one of the last days we drove to the north end of the island, to the end of the road. You can’t drive any further, but you can hike the famous Na Pali Coast trail from there.
We only had time for a short hike, and we made it to this vista point — the first point where you could view both sides of the coast. It was very windy. We were greeted by a stunning scene once we arrived. Hikers coming back down the trail were muddy, and even though the trail was wet in a lot of places, we stayed relatively clean in our short hike. If we had the time, I would have liked to have gone further, to the waterfall, to the beach, but that will have to be saved for another time.
Finding vantage points where we can see things we haven’t seen before is a good goal to have I think, both in terms of physical places, and also in the realm of how we interact with others and ourselves. It might be a real slog sometimes, and we might get muddy and scraped up, but the rewards of increased perspective and awareness is worth it to persevere and keep going.
Where are we heading, and are we taking the time to appreciate the new viewpoints that our path presents? Where the path goes isn’t maybe the whole point, but how we get there is. Joy, happiness, contentment, even in the face of challenges, is how I want to live my life. One step at a time.
When I was in 4th or 5th grade, I joined the Boy Scouts. Except it wasn’t Boy Scouts for me, no, it was Webelos Scouts, since that was the appropriate group for my age at the time. I hadn’t been a Cub Scout, but did like the idea very much of camping, friendship, outdoor activities, and all of the other things that I envisioned Boy Scouts doing.
We didn’t have a lot of money in our family at the time. I remember purchasing the Webelos Scout uniform (shirt, some patches maybe) was a significant purchase. But my parents were willing to support me in joining this fine organization if that was what I wanted to do.
My expectations were high when I joined. The reality turned out to be a little bit different. As I recall, having not been a Cub Scout in the Den I joined, I felt like an outsider. I also had pretty terrible social skills at the time, and didn’t really adapt well. At first I gave it my best shot to fit in and participate, but eventually felt like something wasn’t quite working for me there.
We never went camping. The most exciting part of being a Webelos Scout seemed to be the silver or gold candle we would burn at each meeting. That was our fire — maybe it symbolized a campfire, or burning stuff, or some kind of eternal flame of awesomeness. All I know is that we did some glue-gun projects, and burnt that candle at each meeting. During my short stint as a Webelos Scout we never even discussed going on a camping trip. That being my primary motivation for trying to break into this tight-knit group of young boys, I got discouraged. I gave up.
Ever since I’ve considered myself to be a Webelos Scout Dropout. Someone unfit to participate in that system of rules, achievements, honor, glory, companionship, excellence.
Recently I’ve had an opportunity to revisit this mental image in my head about who I am. I’ve thought of many fine men I know who are Eagle Scouts — they completed the Boy Scout journey, graduated basically with the highest honors. Now I know that not every Eagle Scout is a shining example of awesomeness, but that is basically what they aspire to be. And the people I know who are Eagle Scouts I’ve developed a tremendous amount of respect for. They seem to be able to get worthwhile things done in a way that is worth emulating.
I will never be an actual Eagle Scout. You have to graduate from that program before you turn 18. I’m 35 years old. Not gonna happen without time travel, and I don’t know if I would have turned out that different had I stuck to it at the time.
I got to thinking though, what am I holding on to by seeing myself as a broken Webelos Scout who could never have been an Eagle Scout. Not a productive way to see myself.
What makes an Eagle Scout a good person is their drive to be a good person, and their capable practice of good qualities that gradually tell people — yes, this is a good person. This is someone who is interested in helping the world.
Here is the Scout Oath:
On my honor I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country
and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight.
And the Scout Law:
A Scout is:
Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful,
Friendly, Courteous, Kind,
Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty,
Brave, Clean, Reverent
It’s interesting to me that even though I haven’t thought about the Oath and the Law in many years, I realize that those are really important qualities to me. Those really do help define what it is to be an honorable, good, helpful person in this world.
I may still be a Webelos Scout Dropout, but I realize today that I do strive to fulfill those ideals every day. I don’t have to accept for myself non-Eagle Scout qualities.
The motto of the Boy Scouts is “Be Prepared”. That starts in our thinking and our practice. Every day we have an opportunity to act like an Eagle Scout.
I’m really grateful to have been able to directly assist the following non-profit organizations in my lifetime by working on their websites, training individuals how to use the tools to say what they want to say, and generally try to help them do their jobs better. Most of these folks are active clients. I love the opportunity to serve in this way and plan to continue doing so as long as I’m able.
Barack Obama is the most intelligent, reasoned politician I have ever heard. This video is remarkable. In it, he shares his views on religion and its role in a pluralistic, progressive society.
My favorite passage of the speech (emphahsis added):
And even if we did have only Christians in our midst, if we expelled every non-Christian from the United States of America, whose Christianity would we teach in the schools? Would we go with James Dobson’s, or Al Sharpton’s? Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is ok and that eating shellfish is abomination? How about Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith? Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount – a passage that is so radical that it’s doubtful that our own Defense Department would survive its application? So before we get carried away, let’s read our bibles. Folks haven’t been reading their bibles.
Miro (the open source video player formerly known as Democracy) is running a contest right now to design a revised one-click subscribe button.
A Fun Little Design Contest
Design up to three buttons and submit them as links in the comments. On August 20th, we’ll create a blog post with all of the submissions.
There aren’t a lot of constraints on what you can submit. Our goal is to have a selection of buttons that would look nice on a blog sidebar or myspace page. We hope to see a variety of sizes and colors.
Here are my three submissions, shown on different backgrounds. My goal for this is to create simple, clean, and usable buttons.
I’ll update this post once voting is started so you can vote for my submissions if you like them 🙂