Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Eagle Project

It’s a wonderful thing; to see your 13 year old conduct a safety briefing for teens and adults who take him absolutely seriously.  He was preparing his crew of 9 for some trail building along a steep incline into a canyon that will connect one trail network  to another.  With strong supporting roles from his father, Walt, and the the Espanola Station Forest Ranger, Jennifer Sublett. My son Jack will make Eagle Scout at 13 and a quarter.  This matters because his brother made it at 13 and three quarters.

A lot of folks think scouting is quasi-militaristic and it is.  A lot of folks think it’s Christian, and it is.  And a lot of other people think it’s exclusionary to gays, which I really don’t know about.  All I know is that a private organization that fosters leadership and camaraderie while actually accomplishing something useful for the community is a rare bird.

I don’t “do” Boy Scouts.  I observe my sons and husband doing it.  And if it glorifying the power of uniform and rank is somehow brainwashing the youth of America, I just don’t see it.  Rank and uniforms are everywhere, in business suits and VP titles, on sports teams, in volunteer committees with their secretaries and treasurers. Uniforms are subtle but ever-present; conforming to the accepted norm for the group and locale.

The Christian accusation?  Yeah, so what?  You’ve got to be something or nothing; so if Boy Scouts wasn’t Christian, it could be Jewish or Sufi, or pantheistic, or atheistic.  I’m not one to say one religious or intellectual approach is better or worse.  I just try ot keep it in perspective.  Boy Scouts has a spiritual component, expressed via Christian tenets.  If that’s wrong; my guess is it would be deemed equally wrong if Boy Scouts expressed  the spiritual component through Sufi, rationalist, or atheistic tenets.  Including a spiritual component is what matters to me. As a parent I can discuss how that component fits with my son’s emerging spiritual views.  I’m comfortable with that.

And finally the anti-gay thing?  Seriously?  Must all organizations be all things to all people?  Boy Scouts is a private, non profit association.  No one is forced to join.  If the leadership has made a policy decision to exclude gays, as not aligned with the rest of their tenets, that is their right.  Didn’t I learn in civics that rights not enumerated in the Constitution belong to the people?  Like the right to associate freely?  Somewhere the legislato-philes who seek creation of new laws for every knat that irritates them, forgot this.  

Boy Scouts made a good and true thing happen today, for our community and for my son.    And I believe such constructive work happens all over communities and families across the country.  We’re fortunate to be a part of it.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Thank You Notes

I have to admit I’m a little suspicious when I get a thank you note for some trivial favor or minor meet-up. The question that lingers, when I get such a note from a bare acquaintance or friend of a friend, is “What’s the deal with her? Did she just channel Leticia Baldridge or is she trying to?” The vibe can be, “See how cultured and thoughtful I am? Are you? Well, enjoy basking in my erudite ways as I thank you with some fine paper and a 40-some-odd-cent stamp.”

Another observation...I simply CANNOT remember ever receiving a thank you note from a man. Has the genre been feminized and thereby ghetto-ized as "support-staffish," housewife-ish" or otherwise? In more affluent circles, thank you notes seem to flow more freely; perhaps because there are more personal staff or more females with time on their hands. But in the hurly burly of business, and garden variety dual-income family life, I'm not spotting this endangered species.

Don’t get me wrong. Thank you’s and thank you notes are lovely, gracious and wonderful. It’s just that in a world of online speed, the thank you note is becoming an artifact. Not many of my peers were trained on the convention. I hail from southern socialite circles; the original "wannabes" of erudition. But I was trained well—I believe. “If in doubt, go ahead and write a thank you note,” my mother explained. It can never hurt.

And so I do. But the truth of the matter is I write them for myself…not to draw attention to my erudite ways, but because I like fine paper, funny cards, fitting hand-written words into a limited space, lovely commemorative stamps, and the US Postal Service. I still consider the daily mail a treasure trove, even though it’s usually junk and bills. Just the chance that there might be something fun in there tickles me as it did when I was 9 and played the fishing game at the carnival with the safety-pin on a string, on a stick, bobbing behind the sheet and waiting for the tug. When I get a hand-addressed envelope, be it an invite, a thank you, or heaven help us--an actual letter, my heart accelerates ever so gently. “Someone out there found me and sent me something!”

I do wish thank you notes had not become so rare that “Employee Recognition Programs” had to be developed whereby a peer could recognize a peer with a coin or coupon or what–not. How about a direct sentence or two of esteem-enhancing acknowledgement in a thank you note? It still happens, but those hard copy notes have become infrequent, and my guess is they will continue to decline.

In the meantime, I’m going to delete those nutty emails that tell me to forward the attached poem of thanks and beauty to 10 friends. Instead I’ll use my carefully guarded time and attention on the tactile, visual, creative pursuit of selecting, writing, and stamping a thank you note every now and again.

Recipients may wonder what Court of Royalty I think I was raised in…but in truth, I care not. The note is for the recipient, but it is for me too. It is for a world of tangible, direct acknowledgement, that is slowly vanishing as automated e-cards, Tweets, Yelps, employee recognition coupons, and risk-managed reduced liability exposure displace it.

Thanks for the read. No…Really! ;)