May 21, 2015

With all Due Respect to Maya Angelou (and Mark Twain)

I love Maya Angelou, I don’t know if I’ve ever had an office that didn’t contain at least one book or collection of hers… this one is on my office bookshelf right now:

However, multiple times a week (sometimes a day, depending on how much free time I am wasting) I’ll see the following on Facebook or Pinterest or somewhere else:

Now, I get where she (and he, before her) is/was going with this. And, on an individual basis – complete with a healthy dose of proper context – I guess I wouldn’t even put up much of a fight about it. However, taken against a more general canvas I think I struggle with the potential message.

Here’s the thing, my entire bio on Twitter (and other places as well) consists of this “what you think of me is none of my business.” Now while that may seem a bit egotistical or something, I assure that is not where it is coming from. The point, simply is that my character, my self-confidence, and (most importantly for this discussion) my actions are not guided by someone else and their opinions… especially of me.

If I’m going to give (whether it is money, time, advice or something else) to someone in need what I’m not going to to is pre-screen that gift against what that person thinks of me… that is completely irrelevant to their need, which is what I’m (at least theoretically) addressing by my actions.

This thought process goes beyond giving. In my everyday life I don’t make decisions about what I think about people based on my perceived notion of how they view me. For starters, how fleeting would my opinions of people be in that instance; reevaluating them each time they had an emotional reaction to something I did?

There are people in my life that I view as priorities who I know for a fact do not view me as such. Some view me as options… some probably view me far worse than that. I don’t care, it has nothing to do with my feelings, respect, or prioritization of them. And frankly, if it did – and I was honest with myself – I’m pretty sure I’d find that petty and small of me. I’m pretty sure most parents have experienced the priority/option paradox with their children, and I doubt any of them are willing to throw out the (mostly grown) baby with the metaphorical bathwater.

So, as much as I revere and respect Maya (and perhaps even Mark.. although I certainly don’t have as “close” a relationship with him as I do her), I have to part ways on this notion. I get the “don’t be trampled upon” idea, but when taken generally I think the bad outweighs the good on this one. You can avoid being trampled on because of a slogan, or you can avoid it because of an inner strength and confidence garnered by setting your own compass, cutting your own jib, and being true to yourself and your feelings. If I were in the business of giving advice, I’d point people toward the latter option…

May 26, 2011

It’s not because…

Filed under: Observations — Tags: , , — sbj @ 4:52 pm

It’s not because Barry Bonds hit seven hundred some odd home runs that I’m inspired; I don’t hate him for that like some do…but it doesn’t impress me much (all things considered).

It’s not because, for the first several years of his career (mostly, but not exclusively, in Pittsburgh) he was the epitome of an all around player.

It’s not even because (although this gets toward the heart of this piece) of visiting or offering to pay the college fees of the children of a Giants fan who was beat severely at a game in Los Angeles. (See complete story here).

Nope, its not those things… its this (from same story):

One of the coolest parts about this donation is that Bonds made it over a month ago when he visited Stow in a Southern California hospital on April 22. No mention was made to the media then and it looks like it would have still been a secret had Girardi not revealed it to the media.

Girardi, by the way, represents the man who was beaten, not Bonds.

This was, by all appearances, a completely selfless act.  Mr Bonds is a guy in dire need of some good press right now, and this would have been so easy to capitalize upon… but he didn’t.  He quietly visited the man, pledged his assistance, and went on about his life as if nothing happened. There was no chance for praise, no reason to expect anything in return… just giving… just because.

I am frequently conflicted about announced v. anonymous gifts.  On one hand – as is the case here – there is something awe inspiring about a truly selfless gift.  However, if a tree falls in the woods… blah blah blah.  I believe there is absolutely a case to be made for leading by example and inspiring others to do the same.

On April 22nd the proverbial tree toppled and none of us heard it (until Girardi decided to shout out a posthumous ”timber!” in honor of the languished lumber); and today it matters…

It matters because this is the perfect storm, a rare scenario in which we can enjoy the confluence of selflessness and inspiration; without the burden of self-aggrandizement (or however you spell it).

Not because Barry did something nice, and not because he was silent about it; not because a couple kids will get a good education, and not because their parents won’t have to worry about how to make that happen; not because Girardi spoke out about it, and not because people like Kevin Kaduk continue to do so.

It’s not because of any single thing that this matters… it’s because of them all.

September 2, 2010

Does this work for you?

Both of these worlds exist today, which one you grow up in is decided entirely by luck (where you happen to be born), neither of these children “earned” their fate.  Are you okay with that?  If not, have you thought about what you can do about it?

Cute, ins’t he? :)

That’s a sewer, by the way…

Today I am starting up a project to try to make a difference (not necessarily for this child, or any other homeless child).  My intention is to start up an organization that facilitates technical support for non-profits.  ”Member” organizations or individuals might provide free web sites, online presence, or simply help an organization put a printer on a network.

I have no idea how successful (success being defined by how many people I am able to help) I (we) will be in this venture, but at least I will not feel as though I am idly existing while this disparity of opportunity continues.

If you think you might have some technical skills that would be of value, and you are willing to donate them (there will be no revenue from this effort… this is an exercise in giving) let me know.  I will follow up with you once things get rolling.

March 29, 2010

A friend in need is a friend in deed…

Filed under: Make the world better,Observations — Tags: , , — sbj @ 4:51 pm

An old (and former, to be honest) friend of mine used to say something along the lines of “you don’t see a person for who really are until you see them at their worst” (meaning seeing them in the worst circumstances – i.e. facing adversity).

I have never agreed with that statement, however.  I believe that how a person acts and reacts to positive situations is as important and telling as how they react when the chips are down.  And every shade of grey inbetween is also just as valid a reflection of hat person.

Some people respond well to stress and become “more than they usually are,” others, who excel on a day to day basis, shrink some from adversity.  Neither of these extremes is a blueprint for a better or worse individual, in my mind.

Having said all of that, I am still impressed when someone, facing a difficult situation of their own is able to look beyond themselves and think of others.

One of my online friends, known on the internet as Topsurf has recently stood out to me in this area.  Without going too far into her personal life, her father is suffering from a bout with cancer and has been receiving treatments.

In addition to love and support for her father, what has come from her time in the hospital is this


In short, she has started up a blanket drive to stock the shelves with fleeces (the preferred blanket of patients in treatment rooms, I have learned).  I’ll let you read the rest in her words.

Another old friend of mine, from high school actually, used to always say “a friend is someone who thinks of you, while others are thinking of themselves.”

Thanks Toppy… for being a friend to those nameless and faceless people you will never even know; but who will find warmth and comfort because of your efforts.

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