There is one universal experience that we share with the animal kingdom and that is death. Everyone and everything dies at some point. I think what is most interesting is how people and animals alike choose to deal with death. For instance, Elephants are very emotional creatures and they have a large capacity for mourning. The photo above represents this capacity. John Chaney, on safari in Botswana, captured this photograph of a female elphant mourning her lost companion. Chaney says that the guide of Chaney’s safari went to go collect the tusks of this fallen elephant so they don’t fall into the hands of poachers. When the guide got out of the vehicle, this elephant charged upon the group.
The elephant was there keeping a watchful vigil of her fallen friend. Chaney’s said that the elephant would show up and chase off any predators, scavengers and birds that got too close to the body of her dead friend. Chaney said at one point, the elephant went and wrapped her trunk around the fallen elephants tusk. Chaney said that three hours later, the safari passed by the sight again and the mournful elephant was still there holding onto the tusk of her lost comrade.
Oftentimes when an elephant is too old and about to die, the elephant will leave the heard to go die by itself. In this case, the female elephant followed to say goodbye. Today, I lost a member of my family. It was our cat, Priscilla. She was a great cat, lived a relatively long life and brought lots of joy and entertainment to my family. She had to be euthanized because she had lost her battle to cancerous tumors that had taken hold of her body.
I think the picture above is fascinating, but I think what I find much more fascinating is how photography was able to capture this priceless moment and make it a lasting impression. In one of my earlier blogs I posted that we, on average, have 28,835 days on this earth. One of my passions is photography and I think what continues to drive me to photography and enjoying photography is the opportunity to capture those “important” moments in life…those moments that inspire, those moments where we are enjoying the company of friends, those moments where we are traveling, interacting and truly taking advantage of those 28,835 days. Time is precious and so it is important we take advantage of every day we get.
Today was my last day of work. The coronavirus has caused my place of employment to lock its doors...for now? forever? No one really knows. No one can really know the true and total implications that this virus will have on our world and on the future of our world.
We all live through events that are truly life-changing. I remember how much the world changed on September 11th, 2001. I remember how everything stopped, I remember the fear and anger, I remember the desperation and despair. Looking back on the events that occurred in 2001, now 19 years later, it is unimaginable to think where we are today verses where we were 19 years ago. But I think that is the same with all tragedies...we unify as a people, we dig deep and we find the resolve to move forward and grow from those experiences.
This has been a common theme throughout history...how people find the resilience and the determination to come together and carry the human race to new places, new ideas, new technologies, a new plane of existence. It only make sense that when someone goes through something tragic, they are changed from what they experienced.
As of today there are 250 deaths in the United States from Covid-19 and 19,000+ cases...experts believe that by the time this is all done and said we could be looking at 1.5 million to 2 million deaths in the United States. Calls for social distancing has been heard all over the country as states are closing down gatherings of 10 or more people, closing bars, restaurants and other venues where people meet and gather. In order to keep people save...government officials are having to literally stop the engines of one of the biggest economies on earth to keep people safe.
It is pretty interesting how fragile the human condition really is. With just the slightest agitation...the entire world could be turned upside down and on its head.
So today I enter quarantine, not knowing what the future has in store. I guess this is how the people must have felt in Season 1 of The Walking Dead...seeing something so globally-massive happening and feeling completely helpless to fix the situation or stop the situation. The silver-lining luckily is that humans have been around for a long time and they have a unique talent for finding ways to survive and come out stronger.
Are you a leader? According to the dictionary, a leader is defined as a person who leads or commands a group, organization or country. I am not going to lie, I have never liked the definition of a leader and I have never been able to find a definition suitable enough for what I want. I also cannot stand when the word itself is used as the definition, example: A leader is one who leads. But when talking about leadership, I have found that most people, though a good definition does not truly exist, have similar ideas in mind of “leadership.”
Although there are many notions of what a good leader is or does, I think it is most often-times best described by characteristics. Brave, Courageous, Strong, Intelligent, Passionate, Dedicated, Enthusiastic, Inspiring, Transformative, Engaging, Proactive, Respectful, Responsible, Dutiful, Resourceful, and Open-Minded. These characteristics are just a few characteristics that I think of when I think of leadership, granted a leader may possess all, some or none of these characteristics and may possess a whole list I did not even include. The study of leadership and leadership theory has been around for a long time, probably since the beginning of time. If you believe in God, God as the supreme leader to the wild pack animals such as the Lion where one male lion inserts dominance as the head of the pack to even the first Cave-people. Having someone that you can look to or at as guidance has been an important notion throughout history however sometimes leaders may not necessarily be the “bold, in your face, lead the country” type of leader. Leaders exist on a daily basis and oftentimes their impact may not be as noticed because they do it quietly without fanfare.
It is this notion of “everyday leadership” that I think is really interesting. The teacher that stands around in the hallway just a few minutes longer to make sure the school bully isn’t picking on the younger student or the role model that says some encouraging piece of information to someone who is feeling down or defeated. It is this unselfish, quiet leadership that really makes a difference in this world.
We all have those role models, those mentor figures, those people who really make a difference in our lives whether it be through large actions or the small, unnoticeable actions that have huge consequences. And it is important that we are always being mindful to thank them for those contributions in our lives. Who is your everyday leader, and have you taken a minute to stop and thank them?
I have always believed in the notion that people matter. After all I have worked in Residence Life and residence life is all about people, whether it be our residents living in our buildings, the RAs that we supervisor or the co-workers that we work with on a daily basis. I was fortunate enough to hear a keynote speech from Chad Littlefield at a departmental retreat that I attended the other day and something in my brain just connected to the work that I do on a daily basis.
First off, a note about Chad Littlefield, Chad started the Clown Nose Club at Penn State University 4 years ago. The overall mission of the clown nose club, according to their website is:
” In short (very short) our mission is to challenge ourselves and others to take positive social risks. And why would we want to do that, you ask? Because our philosophy is that people matter and authentic positivity freakin’ rocks! Zing!”
Positive Social Risk…Hmm, I bet you are wondering what that means. Well let’s first look at the definition of risk shall we. According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) the origin of the word risk is a little obscure with scholars dating it back to the 1600’s from the French “Risqué” meaning danger or inconvenience, predictable or otherwise. Scholars, though uncertain feel that the word can be traced back to Ancient Greece and Rome. The OED thinks that the post-classical Latin word resicum meaning “danger or hazard” could date back to the ancient Latin word resecum meaning “that which cuts” meaning the dangers or hazards associated with navigating the seas.
Regardless of the actual origin of the word though, the definition of the word risk, carries with it a negative connotation:
1) (noun) (Exposure to) the possibility of loss, injury, or other adverse or unwelcome circumstance; a chance or situation involving such a possibility
2) (verb) To endanger; to expose to the possibility of injury, death or loss; to put at risk.
The problem though with this definition, by its very nature being negative is that it precludes that risks can be positive, that they can be a good thing, that they can cause us to grow, to develop, to learn, to explore what’s outside the box.
This idea of Positive Social Risk though is not completely foreign. Psychologists Irwin Altman and Dalmas Taylor created a theory called the Social Penetration Theory. The foundation for the theory surmises that as people get to know each other and build close connections with each other their interactions become more genuine because they have put in the ground work to build the trust between each other.
The concept of Positive Social Risk basically speeds up this theory of Social Penetration. Instead of taking time to really build a rapport with someone and to ensure that there is enough time to build up securities before dropping walls, positive social risk is more of an immediate reaction to make a positive impact in someone’s life. For example, as the clown nose club explains, the next time you go to the grocery store tell the cash register that you appreciate everything they are doing and be genuine and sincere in thanking them. There is an immediate positive impact made in that person’s life based upon a “risk” that you chose to take.
The real question here though is…why wouldn’t you? What do you have to lose in making a positive impact in someone’s life on a daily basis. If they look at you funny so what, move on. In this theory, the risk is minimal but the impact could be so great, so meaning, so important.