Jasper has returned from HOBY. As near as I can tell from his descriptions…and they are LENGTHY….HOBY is a values based leadership seminar. It is an intense weekend of self discovery and the forging of lifelong friendships. This was his third seminar…he went as an ambassador when he was a sophomore, and went back as a junior staffer last year. This year he decided to forgo his own high school graduation ceremony and all the associated parties in order to return again as junior staff. He comes home with hours of stories to tell….and he is full of slogans and sayings that only someone who had attended would thoroughly understand. One of this year’s slogans was, “It’s all about the dash.” Referring to the dash that appears on your tombstone. He credits his dad with showing him what that really means. Nothing like a terminal diagnosis and a bucket list to prompt a person to cram as much as one can into a short period of time. Listening to Jasper’s stories last night, I was thinking about my own leadership experiences, and slogans of every type.
When I was a kid about Jasper’s age, I was part of a camp based leadership program. I went through the 3 summer program and stayed on at the camp, first as a counselor, and then as director of the leadership program. It was a values based program, and we vowed to live our lives by the Ragger’s Creed. Here it is in it’s entirety:
I would be friend, to all the foe, the friendless
I would be giving, and forget the gift
I would be humble, for I know my weakness
I would look up, and laugh, and love, and lift.
It was a great creed to live by…good value based ideals. But, as time went on, I began to see that life wasn’t so simple. Sometimes it is better to bite your tongue than spew the truth. Sometimes giving and giving and giving with no return just makes you feel like a door mat. There is only so much time for the friends and foes in your life, and having kids made me realize that my energy is a finite resource. And being strong and brave, especially as a girl, is a direct contradiction to being humble.
So…I started looking at simple slogans, simpler creeds. They are on bumper stickers all over town. “Wag more, bark less.” Good idea….people like compliments more than criticism. Happy people are easier to be around than crabby ones. But…. sometimes a good critique is the only thing that gets me out of my own personal bubble and back on the road to self-improvement. And sometimes, I really disapprove of, or am hurt by, someone’s behavior. I bark when that happens. I have to be true to myself. “You don’t need to die to go towards the light.” Another great bumper sticker. We can all be in touch with that small still voice within that brings us closer to God…or whatever you want to call that power which we can’t explain. But….what about all those times I spend in the dark? I have learned as much from my despair as I have learned from any enlightened times. “Don’t worry, be happy.” “Life is short, seize the day.” “Live in the moment, it is all you have.” So true. One should live everyday as if it were the last. But…if I don’t make plans for the weekend, then it passes too quickly. If I seize the day for my own, then what about the promises I made to others? And sometimes, happiness is not the correct response to someone else’s sorrow. They just need someone to listen to their worries…and cry too.
Life, and how to live it can’t be summed up in a simple slogan. Values are complex and often contradictory. Lately….the one I come back to time, and time, and time again, is the golden rule. “Treat others as you would wish to be treated. ” When I lie in bed at the end of the day, looking back on all I have done or could not quite fit in, I ask myself if I have been kind. I’m not always sure, I always know I could do better. But…most days, it is enough.