Your Impact Matters

Life’s road seems to always be a twisting, changing path. Sometimes Life can seem like a major eight-lane super-highway with no speed limits. Other times, it can feel like a deer trod taking you through some of the deepest, thickest woods you have ever seen. Complete with trees that claw at your clothing as you pull past. But we always seem to keep traveling it, why? Well, in my case, its because that’s the Path I’ve been asked to travel. Not because of what is at the end of the trail, but because of the people I’ll meet along the way. The stories that I will get the chance to share with them and the stories they might offer in return. Because everyone wants to be heard, and sometimes you have to share before they will.

When I was fired from my job earlier this week, I spent a lot of time thinking about the interactions I had with various folks there. Students, faculty members, staff, alumni, and even parents of some of the students. Each one of them had an impact in my life, and not just the positive interactions. Yes, even the negative interactions had impact in my life. I always replayed those interactions in my mind to see what I could have done differently, what I could have changed. But each experience was a learning moment for me.

The student that wanted to write who was in my Introduction to Computer Information Systems class. I designed an extra-credit assignment for the students to be able to write about the future of technology. It was only meant to be a three-page assignment. She provided me a ten-page, single-spaced report on how she thought the future of coffee technology would develop over five, ten, fifteen, and twenty years. She even provided arguments and sources for why she felt that future development would come about. I kept in touch with her for a short-time after the class ended, and eventually she entered into one of the two local four-year colleges, focusing on her writing skills.

One of the faculty members had a major issue occur in their life. I, like many other members of the college, stepped forward to help out with the aftermath. Our assistance made a huge difference in getting everyday life back in place. I cannot count the number of times I have come across a parent in the hallways, both as a staff member and as an adjunct faculty member, where they were stressed about their child’s progress in classes. The amount of discussion with them over some of the coping skills that I thought would be helpful with their stress levels over the success/failure of their child.

And, finally, the young student with cerebral palsy, who took my class one Spring. He would come to class in his wheelchair, and park just off to the side where I typically paced in my classroom. I asked questions of my students to see if they had read the material. Granted, Information Systems can be boring to some people, especially if its not their field. I did my utmost best to try and show how Information Systems impact their daily lives. For this student, I really didn’t know how to get there. On the second week of class, I noticed him sitting out in front of the building, as if he was waiting for someone. He was – his nanny. Everyone flowed around him and went on their way to their cars. Every single day, for the rest of my sixteen-week course, I would stand there with this student and wait with him for his nanny. We conversed mainly about baseball, me the southern Ohio fan (Cincinnati Reds), he being a fan of the northern Ohio team (Cleveland Indians). Afterwards, he nominated me for an award with the Office of Disabilities.

But none of this is about an award. The award was a nice way for him to say “thank you”. This is about the interactions we have with each other, and the impact we have on one another. Each interaction I have had has left some impact on other people. Again, some are not so positive in nature, but I can always learn from that. I can replay things and see where I may have made a mistake or come off too harsh with someone. Sometimes, its just a bad day. Sometimes it can be other things. If I find fault with the way I did things, I find that individual (if possible) and apologize, even if the other person doesn’t believe me to be genuine.

A few folks have suggested that my former department would be contacting me for help with some of the more complicated queries that I had written. And once that contact was made, that I could screw them over by refusing to help – its their problem now. But honestly, if they did contact me for help, I would help them. I even said so to my department’s Vice Chancellor three times before I left (three because I am a Druid ::grins::). I would gladly help them to understand what I wrote because in not doing so, I could hurt the college. And in hurting the college, I would hurt people throughout the college, people I love dearly and count as dear friends. That would violate everything I know about myself to be true.

So, I posit this to you: every interaction you have with other people – those you know and those who are strangers – could be the most important moment that other person has in the course of their day. Do you want them to remember you as the individual who walked by and said nothing, never acknowledged them? Or would you rather be that person that walked by, smiled and said “good morning” – changing their outlook on their whole day? You have that power. And really, deep-down, everyone wants to be acknowledged as existing. What’s your impact? I’ll close this post with the words of Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead from the last show of the “Fare Thee Well” concerts….

Re-Thinking My Facebook Time…

Binary WorldOver the past week-plus, I have taken the opportunity to wade into C-Span’s Facebook feed – and answer their occasional question from my own point-of-view. Aside from the snarky and sarcastic commentary from right-wingers, I have seen nothing of value inside their forum. But I have started to notice a few trends, some of which have me questioning the overall value of Facebook as a social platform, and has me – once again – pondering my participatory relationship in the Facebook social model.

I started to notice, that within the C-Span postings, the commentary placed there was rarely about discussion. Mostly, its been about bitching and moaning about a President (pick one) that the poster did not like, or making grandiose statements about runaway government overstepping or abusing its authority. This will take place for a few hours, and then the whining and moaning turns towards personal insults between the commenters. At first, I thought this was restricted to areas such as these – but then I started looking in other places – and there are similar patterns in other places as well. Facebook does not seem to be the place to talk and discuss issues or even the place to share parts of your Life with friends and family (unless you have closed down your account to being viewable only to that particular spectrum of folks). Seemingly, its become a place to complain, whine, and argue.

The truly sad part, is that I found myself falling into that same perspective. Whining, bitching and moaning about various things – and not sharing my joy of what I find awesome and positive in my daily Life. I went back and looked through my status posts of the last few weeks. Aside from sharing a few videos, and the occasional shared post from here at my blog, if you went by the material I posted and the commentary I made – you would be under the impression that my entire Life was lived in a world covered in dark, rainy clouds, with a Life lived in despair and discontent. And nothing could be further from the truth. I am living a very happy Life – enjoying every moment that I can get outside in the beautiful weather, enjoying the job that I work at – but that is not reflected in what I post. And the only reflection that I can find that mirrors that is the posts from other places within Facebook. And its that reflection that is making me take a long, hard look at the value I get from Facebook overall.

There are plusses to the FBE (Facebook Experience) though. I have connections to people that I value greatly in my Life. I have made connections with people I had lost connections with when I was stationed overseas. I have made new friends that have discovered me through both of my podcasts, as well as my blog. But interactions with these folks tends to be a little sparse at times because they are not always online or if they are, they are not always on Facebook.

There are other avenues to work from. There is Google-Plus, which seemed to be a ghost-town a while back, but interaction is picking up there. The conversation tends to be a little more cerebral for the most part, but not as nearly as long-lasting. And there’s the OBOD discussion forums, where OBOD members can talk about subjects. I have not spent nearly as much time there as I should…and have already started changing that. So I am a little unsure of the discussion paradigm there. There’s also Instant Messenger, but I am rarely at my keyboard for long stretches of time, so that can be somewhat frustrating as a communications medium for both myself and the individual communicating with me. And there’s also face-to-face time…

Last year, I stuck my toe back into the local Pagan community – helping out with Pagan Pride Day. Granted, I came late to the entire planning aspect of the event – so I was sort of the loose wheel in the group. This year, I have been in from the start – and am a little more of a known quantity now. But even this interaction is sparse at times. After all, many of these folks have their own Spiritual practices, families and jobs that compete with their free time. So there’s not a whole lot of opportunity to just sit and discuss mundane stuff….and I know there are other things out there, such as MeetUp groups, local Drum Jams, and the such. I will definitely have to look into that.

In the end, I still find myself questioning the value I get out of Facebook interactions, considering the amount of time I spend on the site. And its a bad proportion, from my perspective. I spend large amounts of time there – and the amount of positive, meaningful communication that I get from it…well, its minimal – at best. Which leaves me wondering…what might be a better place??? There’s got to be something, right?