Category Archives: Life lessons

Remembering D-Day requires Action


Grave marker of unknown soldier, American Cemetery, Normandy, France

“Here rests in honored glory a Comrade In Arms known but to God”

June 6, 1944 is one of those days that should forever be ensconced in mankind’s collective history, similar to December 7, 1941, or more recently September 11, 2001. I have always felt it to be a day to spend in reverent memory of the sacrifices made by so many a lifetime ago.

But just about six weeks ago, I had the opportunity to take a group of scouts to Normandy. We were able to walk along the beaches of Utah and Juno. We explored the craters and ruins of Point du Hoc. We walked the rows of thousands of white crosses at the American cemetery and paid our respects to the fallen. We ate dinner and participated in ceremonies of peace on the sands of “Bloody Omaha” with fellow scouts and scouters from the USA, Canada, UK, France, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, and Germany (and I’m sure several others but those are the ones I noticed). The experience was life altering for those of us who made the trip.

Today, the first anniversary of D-Day since our visit, seems to me different now. Having been where they were. Having freely walked where they fought. Having been able to greet others with kind words and handclasps rather than bullets. Being able to leave, unlike so many that did not.

Books, classes, websites, movies…these can explain to us the timelines, the strategy, the methods, the results. But being there, standing on that ground, brings a new perspective that is hard to adequately explain. And that was 75 years after the fact. I can only imagine how poignant that place is for those who were there, those few who still remain.

There are so few left who witnessed the events of June 6, 1944 in person. At each five year interval, even fewer are able to attend ceremonies on the land they walked all those years ago. I’m sure that while that much of the topography is the same, it looks far different today than it did back then. Estimates say this may be the last major anniversary where vets will attend.  It falls upon us, then,  to continue to remember what happened on that day, and what it meant for us as a country, a people, a world.

To borrow the words of President Lincoln from his Gettysburg Address, “It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.” 

While those words were spoken in the midst of our American Civil War more than 80 years before the events of June 6, 1944, they are uncannily, hauntingly applicable today, just as they were then, just as they were in 1944.  We must not just remember, but we must act.  To continually strive to ensure that those underlying causes of the conflict can never again be allowed to occur. To endeavor for understanding and friendship among all peoples, rather than distrust and conflict. To maintain constant vigilance to ensure that the evils and horrors of that conflict are not revisited upon any of us.  To speak up when evil is perpetrated on those around us, even if we are not affected.  To do our duty to God and our country, and to help other people at all times.  To be not just helpful, friendly, courteous, and kind to others, but also brave in standing up for the least among us.  To quote Mr. E. Urner Goodman, one of the founders of the Order of the Arrow, “He who Serves his fellows is, of all his fellows, greatest.”  Or maybe more succinctly, as our OA Obligation tells us, we all must “be unselfish in service and devotion to the welfare of others.”

We must.  If not us, then who?

Letter from Eisenhower to the members of the Allied Expeditionary Force - June 6, 1944

Eisenhower’s letter to the Allied Expeditionary Force

Here’s a link to the Google Photo Album from our trip.

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Priorities


I’ve said it before to numerous people over the years, that you can’t take it too personally when someone else doesn’t put as high a priority to the thing that you put at a premium, be it an item, activity, cause, hobby, fandom, or other interest.  No two people are exactly alike and not everyone is going to have the same priorities as you.  While you may feel hurt in that discovery, it isn’t usually a rejection of you personally, even if it may feel like it is.

Sometimes though, it is harder to not feel that kind of personal rejection or hurt when you find that someone you thought had the same high priority as you on that thing actually does not, or at least does not in the same manner as you.  In those instances, it is very difficult to not take it as a rejection of not the thing you prioritize, but you personally.

(So here’s the part where if I was #vaguebooking I would say something like, “This post has no conclusion so that you can jump to your own.” Heh.)

Not sure I even have a takeaway here.  Maybe it’s “You do you,” or “Keep on keeping on,” or “Haters gonna hate.”  I’m unsure that those are all 100% relevant or correct.  Maybe instead the takeaway is to take a look at the man in the mirror and make a change, to paraphrase the King of Pop, though I’m not sure that’s entirely warranted either.

Maybe the point here isn’t for you from the standpoint of the person with the higher priority on the thing that feels let down.  Maybe the takeaway is that to remember that it isn’t a fun feeling when that happens to you.  Inevitably you’re going to be the one who doesn’t have as high a priority on a thing as a friend or coworker or fellow enthusiast, and you should be upfront and honest about things to help minimize that feeling they’re going to feel when they find out what they value so highly isn’t as important to you as it is to them.  So they don’t felt strung along, or devalued, or that their worth is somehow less than they believed it to be.  Because we’ve all been there at some point or another. A Scout is Kind, after all.

Unless of course you’re a narcissistic sociopath.  In which case, I bet you’ll think this post is about you, to paraphrase another famous pop star.

Sticks and stones may break our bones, but words CAN hurt too.


I want to share a story about the power of words.

At the place where I work, we all get paid by direct deposit. What that means is that the company we work for submits all of our hours worked to another company who processes and puts our salaries directly into our bank accounts. This is done instead of getting a paper check or cash handed to us directly. It is a fairly common practice and with electronic time card systems for clocking in and out of work it is all done online.

A while back, sometime last year around the holidays, I arrived to work a little early to find a group of people who work for and with me very upset because their pay wasn’t in their bank accounts. Being perceived as a member of “management,” I had many angry questions made to me about why people didn’t get paid. I had just arrived and had no idea what was happening, so I said I would look into it. I logged into my online banking system and sure enough, no paycheck in my account either. It appeared that no one got paid that morning, which was our normal payday.  I figured it was due to the holidays and told everyone to calm down, there was probably a glitch or delay due to it being around Christmas and New Years, and that I would tell Human Resources when they arrived.

A short while later, my coworker from the HR Department who handles payroll arrived at the office and I told her about the problem. Several other employees also approached her to express their concern or that they were upset that they were not paid at the normal time. The HR person, who also had not been paid like the rest of us, said she would investigate the problem as she was unsure why this happened. She, like me, thought it was just some kind of delay due to the holidays.

She called the other company that is responsible for putting the money into our bank accounts to find out what was causing us not to be paid on time. By working together online and over the phone they discovered that we had not submitted the information properly. You see, the online system we use to submit payroll information to be processed has a box that must be checked saying “Verified.” If that box is not checked, the data can still be sent but the payroll company will not process the information, and the employees don’t get paid.  Unfortunately my coworker made a mistake and did not check the box before submitting.  She fixed the error, and everyone’s pay got sent to their bank accounts, but for some people it took an extra 1 to 2 days before they got the money in their account.

Now, my coworker was the only person who knew why the glitch happened.  She could have just told everyone that there was an error and she fixed it.  But instead she told the entire truth that she had made the mistake and apologized for it.  That in itself was pretty brave, and I admired her for that.

Some people, when things are different than what they expect, can get very upset. Especially when it means your paycheck isn’t in your bank account on time, because that can cause problems with paying your bills for your housing, transportation and food. When people get upset, they can say things that are mean and hurtful. And I heard many of the people I work with saying those types of things both to the HR person and about her to others.  But what good does that do?  The money won’t get into our bank accounts any faster.  And who has never made a mistake before?  Being in quality control, I had to deal with the mistakes that many of those peole made every day.

So later that day when I ran into the payroll person again, we talked and she was telling me about the error and that she had missed that one small item.  I said I knew a lot of people were upset, but that I understood we all screw up some times and not to worry too much about it.  She did what she could to fix the problem and it wasn’t that big of a deal.  I told her something along the lines of “Other people might be mad, but don’t worry about it too much.  It really isn’t the end of the world, and we all make mistakes.  I forgive you.”  And that was that.  Everyone got their pay and after a week or so it was forgotten about.

Fast forward to yesterday.  It was my last day working at that company, as I had accepted a new position elsewhere.  I was finishing up some paperwork in the lab and my coworker stopped by to talk to me.  Many of the people I work with had been coming by to see me and say their farewells, but something seemed different with her.  With tears in her eyes, she told me how much she would miss having me at the office, but also she told me that she remembered that conversation we had last year.  That it was probably the worst day she had on the job ever, and that I had said I forgave her.  That small phrase had made a huge difference to her.

And to be honest, I didn’t even remember saying it.  Who remembers every conversation they have every day months and more later?  But when what you say makes an impact on another person, they will carry that with them.  They will remember those words.

Do you remember something a person has said to you that was particularly not very nice, rude or mean?  Likewise, do you remember something that someone said to you that was very nice?  I bet all of us have examples of both.

This is the power of words.  Once you say something to someone, it can stick with them forever.  Both good or bad.  You can never truly take it back.  Even the smallest conversations or offhand remarks can have lasting affect.  There’s an old saying, “Sticks and stone can break my bones but words can never hurt me.”  But in truth, they can hurt, they really can.

Lasts and Firsts (Happy Birthday, BSA!)


“What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.”
-T.S. Eliot

Today marks the 101st birthday of the Boy Scouts of America! I know how we’ll be opening our pack meeting tonight, maybe with a little singing? It was on this day 101 years ago that a group of men including the namesake of our council (Daniel Carter Beard) got together to begin the process of transplanting the Scouting movement across the pond from Great Britian to America. And over those last 101 years we have seen what is undeniably the largest and most effective youth leadership training program in the country. The BSA is the second largest Scouting organization in the world (second only to Indonesia whose 17+ million Scouts make up nearly 40% of the world’s active Scouting population). Over 2 million young men have attained the highest rank of Eagle, and the list of influential people in positions of power in this country who were Scouts is amazing. I am glad to have been (and continue to be) affiliated with Scouting as both a youth and adult, and look forward to what is to come as the BSA trailblazes into the future.

Today is also a memorable day in the Scouting career of my son (and to me as well). It is his 45th pack meeting as a Cub Scout with Pack 19. It is also his last. He has never missed a Pack meeting that I can recall! Some have been awesome (bringing in the police department, fire department and animal handlers), and some not so much (the ritualistic handing out of the plastic baggies of awards, then we have announcements and then we go home), but overall they’ve been fun.

It occurs to me that this month is a lot of “lasts” for my Lightning Dragons. Saturday was our last Pinewood Derby. Today is our last pack meeting as Cub Scouts. Next Tuesday is our last den meeting. And on the 26th is our last Blue & Gold Banquet and their last day as Cub Scouts. Frankly, since the beginning of March 2010 this has felt like we were on some kind of farewell tour. And there have been a few times where it hit me a little bit to realize that this would be our last week at Adventure Camp, or Fun With Son, or our Pack Summer Campout. And yeah, it makes me a little sad to think about how in just a few short weeks we won’t be in Cub Scout Pack 19 anymore.

Honestly I think I should feel that way. We have devoted a large deal of our time for several years to this organization. We’ve had some struggles, and lots of triumphs, and developed a lot of really good relationships along the way. We in Pack 19 (and I mean all of us, not just my family) are lucky to have a wonderful group of families who all work together to do great things for these young men.

So while February may be a month of “lasts” for Jon and Jenny and I, the most important thing is that February is also the month for the beginning of some “firsts.” On February 26th, which is Jon’s last day as a Cub Scout, it is also his first day as a Boy Scout. And then moving into March, we have his first Troop meeting, his first troop campout at Red River Gorge (also a first visit for him), and so and and so forth leading up to a first Court of Honor and his first week at Boy Scout resident camp (as opposed to Cub Scouts).

So I’m going to try to enjoy the lasts while we can and not be too sad about them, because the firsts start right after, and that’s where the real adventure begins!

11/11/11 (Thank you!)


On November 11th in 1918 the armistice agreement between the Allies and Germany was finally signed, bringing an end to the war which had raged throughout Europe, at least in the western front. This agreement, which had taken several weeks to negotiate, was signed in a railway car in the Compiègne Forest in northern France and went into effect at 11:00 AM that day. From this we get the term “the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.” Right up until the final minute of the hostilites, war raged, but as that 11th hour struck, the western front went quiet and effectively ended “the war to end all wars.”

For the Allied countries, this date became significant, and memorials were created, perhaps most notably to honor the unknown war dead. In Great Britain, the remains of an unknown soldier were interred at Westminster Abbey. In France, an unknown soldier was buried beneath the Arc de Triomphe. And in the United States, in 1921 the Tomb of the Unknowns was dedicated at Arlington National Cemetery and the remains of an unidentified soldier were interred. Congress declared November 11th a national holiday, Armistice Day.

Unfortunately, the “war to end all wars” did not live up to it’s name, and just a few decades later the second World War began. And that was followed by conflicts in Korea and Vietnam and the Middle East twice and Afghanistan, plus many other military operations in other places around the globe in which American servicemen and servicewomen bravely served. And even in times of peace, our military forces are always working, always protecting, always preparing for when the time when they will be called upon again to protect the principles that our country was founded upon.

And while today’s modern technological age has virtually guaranteed that no brave man or women who dies in service to this country will no longer by named, that was not always the case. Unknown war dead from World War II, Korea and Vietnam were interred into the Tomb of the Uknowns throughout the years. Through DNA testing, the remains of the Vietnam soldier were eventually identified and removed and returned to his family. All that remains today are the remains of the soldiers from World Wars I and II and the Korean conflict.

Because wars continued to be fought, Armistice Day was changed to Veterans Day in 1954. On this day each year we give special attention to all of those who served our country, in both peacetime and times of conflict, both living and dead.

Were it not for the sacrifice made by these people and their families, the United States of America would not be the same country as we know it. The often used saying goes “Freedom isn’t free.” If you ever want to know how true this is, ask a veteran.

So today, during this eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, please take time to remember, honor and thank our veterans for their service to this country.

Many went, some came back, some are still there, and some will never return. And for all of these people, we give our thanks.

Thank you, Dad.
Thank you, Grandpa.
Thank you, Donna.
Thank you, Paul.
Thank you, everyone else may or may not read this for their service, whether I know you or not.

Error Code ID 10 T


So…this one isn’t really Scouty per say, although there is a lesson to be learned here.

Many years ago, well after I had left Scouting in my youth but before drinking the leader Kool-Aid, I was working at my job and among my many other duties I was the resident IT person.  Not officially mind you, but if there was a computer issue that could be fixed by me at my slave wage rather than calling in a contractor, it became my job to get it fixed.

And so it came to pass that someone higher up on the food chain got themselves a brand spanking new computer.  To give you an idea of the date range it meant they were upgrading from a pentium class to a PII (or possibly a Pentium III, I can’t remember at this point).  Anyway, in a show of how magnanimous said higher up was, they gave me their old computer to retrofit for one of the peons.  So I check around and find that the Receptionist / Secretary / poor girl who had to do most of the work for the Sales Director at the time was still running on a 486 machine.  And this is a year that started in 2-0 peeps!

So I take her hard drive and slave it into this “new” (to her) computer.  Not much else was worth saving.  But on her old machine was this old old tape/disk drive…thing…that said Iomega on it.  Not a ZIP drive which would have been the most prominent thing at the time from that company, but some internal thing that fit in a 5.25″ drive bay and hooked in like a HDD or optical drive.  I ask her, “Do you need the tape drive?”  Her response was, “Oh yes.  We put our backups on that every week, I have to have that drive!”  Crap.

And the search begins.  I know the drive is made by Iomega but this old proprietary thing is so old that they don’t even acknowledge the fact that they made it.  No support from them, nada.  And with no drivers (because heaven forbid someone save installation disks in this place), I’m kind of screwed.  This is definitely not plug ‘n play.  Eventually my Google-fu wins out and I find buried in some long forgotten section of some long forgotten drivers website what I need.  I am indeed the man!

Armed with my drivers, I get this monstrosity installed.  Sucks so much power I think the lights dimmed (okay, not really).  So I get all finished but want to test before I put the cover on the case, so I ask the nice secretary for one of her backup tapes.  And she hands me…

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

(Wait for it…)

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

…a 3.5″ Floppy Disk!  NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! KHAAAAAAAAAAAN! *headdesk* *headdesk* *headdesk*  I could have burned through souls with the look of death in my eyes, and a tongue lashing on how much of my time was wasted over such a ID 10 T code error (put it together…ID10T) on their part would have been entirely wrranted.  Instead I just replied with an, “Oh, well that’s actually called a floppy disk not a tape, and your floppy disk drive is working fine now,” and went about my life.

So what’s the tie in with Scouts here?  Well, there are a couple.  First, is that when something like that happens and you want to MDK someone over an issue like this, just remember that A Scout is Friendly…and Cheerful…and Kind…and Courteous…and Helpful…and probably going to be having a beer after work that night (assuming they are of legal age and not going to be at a Scouting function with youth present).  Yelling at someone over what was on their part an honest mistake (we can’t assume everyone is a subject matter expert) doesn’t have any positive outcome other than the momentary good feeling for the person doing the yelling.  In the long run it just hurts feelings and can sour a relationship, which is pretty universally a bad thing when you’re talking about a coworker, or fellow leader, or Scout…

The second tie in goes to a subject that is universally near the top of the problem list in every Scouting group I’ve seen, be it den, patrol, pack, troop, crew, district, council, whatever:  communication.  Had I spent a few extra minutes talking to my coworker and asking her for a “tape” or what specifically she uses it for, I would likely have discovered that she just didn’t have a good grasp on the terminology 9and let’s face it, 10 years ago the amount of folks in the workforce who weren’t computer literate was pretty high).  So a little due dilligence on my part could have saved me 2 days of fruitless labor.  Because I just jumped into the job without first clarifying exactly what the requirements were, I added a bunch of extra work that wasn’t necessary.  So while in this instance the ID10T operator error was as much on me as it was the coworker because neither of us were communicating with each other effectively.  And how many times have you seem a problem at the den, patrol, pack or troop level come up because of miscommunication?  More often than we’d all like to admit I’m sure.

Is there a catch-all to fix that second issue?  If you know of one, please share with the class!
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