Walking in the Shoes of Others

For days I have tried, unsuccessfully to get my mind off of the events that took place last week in Charleston.  If you have spent anytime reading my posts on this blog you know that I try very hard to avoid controversial topics like politics and religion.  I also generally try to keep my posts leaning towards the positive and good in life.  Admittedly, in my first draft of this post I wrote entirely from the negative.  I wrote with anger.  I wrote with embarrassment and sorrow for our culture.  As I write this over Father’s Day, I find it unimaginable to walk in the shoes of the victims or the victim’s families.  I try and the grief and anguish seems overwhelming, unthinkable.

Last Sunday our family attended church in our normal routine.  We learned all churches in South Carolina would ring their church bells at 10am in solidarity and support of those families suffering at the hands of this racial terrorist.  Hearing the bells ring and listening to the homily from Father John about our need as people to connect in these tough times, not hide in fear of such unspeakable events and to believe that good will come from this act of deep hatred, I returned to my first draft only to delete most of it and try to write with more compassion, less anger.  I also found myself trying again to feel what those 9 souls felt in the minutes during their senseless murders and I too found this impossible.  Unthinkable.  Unimaginable.

In the days since the massacre last week, through exercise routines, long runs, walks alone between meetings at work, hot commutes and even while enjoying a baseball game with my kids my mind finds a way back to the events in Charleston.  Not just Charleston, but also Sandy Hook in 2012 where 27 people were gunned down, the Washington Navy Yard in 2013 where 12 people were murdered senselessly, Aurora, Colorado in 2012 where 12 peoples died and 58 were injured by a shower of bullets in a movie theatre.  To engage in a debate about whether the gun or the person with the gun kills seems ridiculous.  To deny that fewer guns in a society means fewer gun-related deaths also seems ridiculous.  Silly.  Wrong.

I have largely avoided the media view on the Charleston Shooting.  The few snippets from Twitter that I have seen, like Jon Stewart’s no-joke Daily Show monologue or this Australian Comedian’s take on the absurdity of our 2nd Amendment (warning: contains language not appropriate for the kiddos) make me wish that these views would polarize us as Americans who are tired of seeing these events and allow us to tackle this tough issue once and for all.  That is my hope.  I realize hope alone won’t move our country to solidarity on this issue.  I also know other countries have cured their mass-murdering ways (100% of them) and while I cannot believe they are immune from crazed, hateful bigots, they are proof this issue can be drastically reduced if not eradicated. Eliminated.

So, where am I going with this post?  Truthfully, I am not sure.  I’m not going to blab on about the statistics of other countries with strict gun laws and the lack of people being shot in those countries.  I’m not going to use tons of words to show that we, as a pure democratic society, can change our laws and even our sacred Constitution (after all it has been amended from the original state 15 times if you don’t count the first 10 that were written as a part of it and the 21st that repealed the 18th).  I won’t talk at length about the extremely high percentage of highly responsible, safety-conscious gun owners in our country and the lack of threat any of these law-abiding citizens pose to society.  It seems unfounded to do so from my position.  Untimely.  Fearful.

I CAN pledge that I will never own a gun.  I won’t willingly allow a gun in my home.  I won’t teach my kids gun safety.  I will actively teach them gun avoidance.

I personally believe guns exist for only two purposes beyond the necessity of law enforcement/military security:

  1. For entertainment for the enthusiast who simply likes to shoot guns in practice, sport/hunting or competition.
  2. As a tool to kill for the criminal, murderer, terrorist, lunatic or upset human with access to a gun.

I don’t hate, dislike, mistrust people in this first group.   I am actually a little sad for this group because to fix our problem where groups of innocent Americans are murdered with regularity, this group would have to give up something they enjoy and something to which they have had lawful access.  No, that doesn’t seem fair.  But I also can’t see any clear path to identifying all of the 2nd group and curing them of what drives them to kill before this happens again (and again).

9 black Americans, praying in church, were executed last week.  These people were praying.  A man they welcomed into their church, a man with a gun, killed them all in less than a minute.  No stone, knife, fist or even bow and arrow could have done this.  No human of love and respect for mankind could either.  9 Americans died in church.  We should do everything in our power to keep this from ever happening again.

From this event, I also pledge to teach tolerance, acceptance and for my kids to actively look to walk in the shoes of others.  I will teach them to wish all humans, no matter their differences, goodness and well-being.  Kindness to all.  Respect for others.

I feel deep sorrow and grief for the families of the nine victims.  Much of this is driven by the sadness of this repeated narrative.  People using guns to kill.  And people disliking others for their differences.   And most of all, the hopeless feeling and fear that nothing will change regardless of how many times the narrative repeats.  To overcome such hopeless feelings I find myself hoping more than ever for the following:

  • A future without mass killings at the hands of humans wielding guns.
  • A society that can walk in true equality – one where race, gender and sexual orientation is a diversity we embrace, not hate.
  • A country that no longer tolerates celebration of a heritage steeped in bigotry and division – after all it is 2015 already.
  • A media that unbiasedly reports on these acts exactly as they are – in this case, racial hate-based terrorism.  Nothing else.
  • A government that finally understands the negative connection between campaign finance and rampant lobbyist abuses and the direct harm these abuses have on our citizens.
  • A human race that places at least equal value on the lives of our planet’s inhabitants as we do the freedom to place such value on items that exist to do such harm.

I hold hope for a day in my life where our American people stand up to make tough changes for our greater good.  What would it take to fix it?  If we knew we could eliminate or nearly eliminate events like these would we take the steps?  If we could sacrifice a freedom some enjoy for greater safety for all would we?  If you were one of the nine killed or related to the nine my bet is on yes.  But then you’d be wearing the shoes rather than being asked simply to try them on and take a short walk in the them wanting to understand.  Change.  Embrace.

Closing questions:  Does any good come from a tragedy like this and if so, what do you think it will be?

Advertisements

H to the H to the I

Hilton Head Island. Specifically, Sea Pines on Hilton Head Island. The place is special.  Peaceful, magical.  After seven years of vacations on the island, it is one of those places I hope our family wants to visit together each year. This is the ‘Callaway Gardens‘ from my childhood days, sans circus sponsored by arch rival college and interestingly enough, their highest ranked undergrad program (*mic drop*). If you are looking for a place where both parents and kids can find activities from sunup to sundown, HHI/Sea Pines is just that place.

The strangest thing about Sea Pines, other than the ridiculously large number of vacationers from Kentucky and Ohio, is only a few homes have a view of the ocean and renting one of those homes without multiple families or a lottery win involved is out of the question. In my early days of beach-going vacations this would have been a deal breaker.  After all, why drive all the way to the beach not to be able to see it all of the time, right?  Don’t get me wrong, hearing, seeing, smelling the ocean from your back porch is pretty darn special. But finding that setting with the bike trails, canopy of trees/shade, pool accessibility and without an airline involved is a tall order.  Kiawah might be close but lacking in restaurant/eatery diversity.  For our family, the wide mix of activity without the involvement of a car is worth the tradeoff. Things like bike rides to ice cream, fishing, kayaking, live music in the evenings, crabbing and even swimming in a pool at the rental home are the deal-makers. Plus the backyard beach scene, while tropical and super-accessible, becomes a light switch activity for our family.  Light switch on: go to the beach. Light switch off:  kids inside on electronics or worse, parents managing electronics on vacation.
So what makes Sea Pines at HHI so magical?  Here’s a brief taste:

Bike paths galore – not the kind tacked onto the sides of roads, but the trails through the woods kind.

source: Tripadvisor.com

Salty Dog – basically a marina with a phenomenal marketing strategy

Baynard Ruins – Revolutionary War era ruins in Sea Pines

Harbour Town – home to a marina, lighthouse, PGA Tour stop and amazing sunsets.  Home to Gregg Russell and the only octagonal lighthouse in the world (114 steps tall).

Note: picture is from 2014.

Gregg Russell – for 39 summers in a row he’s been playing a show for kids/parents in Harbour Town

Crabbing old-school style – meat parts on a hook in basket on a rope with the tide coming in.

Sea Pines Beach Club totally rebuilt in 2014 with an amazing patio bar and typically great acoustic music

Lowcountry Backyard Cafe while not in Sea Pines, worthy of the trip for their world-class pimiento cheese and banana pudding in a mason jar.

Didn’t see enough pics yet?  Check out our pics from our 2015 HHI vacation to see more.   Here’s to hoping I write and you read about another VERY similar vacation in a year.

Connections

  
 

Let’s talk about connections.  Not the kind we prefer to avoid when traveling.  The human kind.  Human connections take a variety of shapes throughout life.  These shapes tend to change with each day or maybe they change with each relationship.  What I know for sure is my number of connections, defined by me as genuine and valued two-way interactions with human beings, has waned over the years.  I am not sure this is necessarily a bad thing or even unnatural.  Interestingly enough, I don’t feel these connections are due to losing friendships or making fewer new friends.  The downward trend, possibly only in my head, seems to me to be caused by a few factors.

1.  Phase of Life – not quite at half life but far enough along where I know the difference between a high quality relationship and one light on quality. I’m definitely focusing more on quality than quantity.  Plus having kids splits focus dramatically from the BK (before kids) days. 

2.  Technology – sadly, I spend more time on technology than ever before. Honestly, much of this is not very productive time.  This takes time away from true connections. Plus quick texts and social media interactions can trick me into thinking I’ve connected when in hindsight I’ve done almost the opposite of connecting with humans this way. 

3.  Personality – while not exactly a hermit, I am more prone with age to look for more ways to capture those quiet moments on our back porch just looking at the trees. These are moments that I use to recharge, but I find I’m doing it more and more and enjoying it more and more.  

 At first glance, I felt like fewer connections with people was a bad thing.  My gut reaction was to get out and immediately connect with more people.  But looking back at my recent past, I don’t think a lack of connection opportunities is the problem.  There have been trips to the beach with close friends, Y-Guide outings with a great group of dads who come together with the goal of showing their kids the great outdoors, dates with my wife, family visits, charity events and even a work party where I was the “plus 1.” Plenty of opportunities. 

When I look back at many of these events there’s a common thread.  Wade with me into analogy-ville.  There’s this big pool.  I’ll call it the “Connection Pool.”  In my mind it is vast, odd shaped and has some kind of white-noise water feature shaped like a mushroom.  All new or unchartered connections available to me are represented by the pool.  Outside of the pool at an umbrella or table might be a connection or two I am comfortable enough with to go deep with in conversation. These are the few, the quality ones.  Occasionally (and if you know me it is super-almost-never-occasionally), let’s say I venture into the pool.  It is also metaphorically accurate and notable that I tend to always wade slowly into a pool.  Once in, I am comfortable swimming in the deep end or wading in the shallow end.  I AM afraid to take off my shirt. Yes, admittedly odd and definitely off-topic.  I’m “Marco” in the game “Marco Polo.”  I swim around saying hello to folks but not hanging around long enough to go deeper than “Polo.”  And therein lies my problem.  Connections are abound.  I know them when I see them.  I rarely hang around longer than “Polo” for any of them.  

There are people, and you know who you are, that are truly natural and engaging around people. We had relatives like this who recently stayed a weekend with us. Cindy and I noted several times how few times we reached for a device that weekend.  We all talked. A lot. It was fun. Interesting.  I tried hard to learn from their style. Good questions. Long on dialog. No hijacking. Lots of laughing. 

I’d like to improve my connections with those in the Marco Polo pool beyond the land of the small interaction.  Maybe spend some time listening.  Prompting.  Engaging. Novel, I know. Easy?  Not so much. 

I’d love to hear your thoughts on connections and what makes a good connector. Connect via technology and comment below. Better yet, let’s spend some time talking about it live. I’d love to listen. I promise you won’t be my ‘Polo.’