Saturday, December 15, 2012

What is wrong with this world and how do we really fix it?

I listened to a discussion on the radio about the tragedy in Connecticut. The two main points of the discussion were that we either need gun control or better mental health care. Looking at Facebook today, that seems to be the broader discussion here as well.

I couldn't help but think, how do either of these things really fix the issue? At least with the mental health discussion they were trying to drive to the root cause, instability of the individuals involved. But to me, they both just seem like stabbing in the dark at symptoms of the issues of our society today, not root causes. 

I wonder if what is really missing in our society (in general) are (1) parents involved in the lives of children, (2) a general concern for each other (too much focus on ourselves), and (3) a disregard for the activities that really made our society thrive?

For the first point, I look towards the role of parents. For instance, women have a unique opportunity to nurture children. As a father, I know that I can never have the same bond a mother has with their child. However, we have a generation of children who have largely raised themselves. Is the battle for women's rights (and their absence from the home) really more important than devoting and sacrificing to raise your children? Is a big home and all the latest gadgets more important than time and love? Is putting our kids in extracurricular sports really just to help us as parents feel better about the time we aren't spending in raising our children? Or maybe better put, should we not swing the pendulum back from a focus on what we adults want to focusing more on our children's need for nurturing?

The second point comes directly from a Christian principle that used to be prevalent in our society. "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." (Matthew 22:39) This commandment provides us a basic rule of how to interact with others. Do we treat others the way we want to be treated in all ways? 

Do we as leaders, business owners, marketers, business people and general citizens provide opportunities for our customers, employees, and fellow citizens to live by this idea? Or do we make it harder for them?

For instance, does an early morning shopping frenzy create a society where we are caring about our neighbor? Are there ways that these activities can be designed to create an atmosphere which provides for both? What about other decisions we make? Do they lead us to be selfish or caring? I think pornography is one area in our society where we have a lost opportunity. It is a huge negative influence and encourages selfishness in the most extreme ways. When we focus so intensely on an extreme it drives us to be more selfish. When we have a balance, it brings us to be more caring. 

Finally, the third point in my mind builds on the second point. Isn't the point of government and organizations which work for our society are to provide services which cannot be provided effectively by the individual? It seems that we have lost our way as we have tried to move from being a religious society to a more politically correct society. Why can't we balance among all of the ideas and allow for some of all? Being politically correct seems to push away all that is good. If we are less focused on our selfish interests, we'll be open to other ideas. Likewise, we can look back on what made our nation great and bring back things we have pushed aside as we try to not offend.

I don't expect that I have all the answers, these are just some of my thoughts as another tragedy unfolds. I welcome your thoughtful comments and discussion on this topic. I hope we can get beyond the simple-minded, knee jerk reactions to really think about what we need to do to fix what is wrong with our communities and society.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Letter 2011

December 2011

Dear Family and Friends,

We hope you had a great year!! We have been busy, but we have had a wonderful 2011.

Shawnie was recently released as a councilor in the Primary Presidency and is now an Activity Days Leader in charge of helping the children obtain their Faith in God awards. This past year she has enjoyed the  opportunity to fit in some sewing between the children's activities.

Kyle was called to be the Ward Employment Specialist and is also teaching Sunday School to the 14 and 15 year-olds in the Ward. Kyle's big home improvement project this year was to remodel our hall bathroom in September.

Brittany is now twelve years old. She is in the 7th grade at Brooks Wester Middle School where she participates in Pre-AP (Advanced Placement) classes, the school's Concert Choir, and was among the largest group of students in the school's history to try out for the All Region Choir. While she was not chosen to sing with the choir, she learned a lot and she hopes to make it next year. Brittany also joined the Young Women's program this year where she currently serves as the Beehive Class Secretary and loved Girls Camp. Brittany is a great help around the house and has begun baby-sitting for Mom and Dad (whoohoo!).

Megan is ten and is in the 4th grade at J.L. Boren Elementary. Megan is a very inquisitive student and has stepped up to the challenges of 4th grade. We were excited this fall to watch Megan use her physical talents as she played soccer again with her team, “Super Stars.” It was awesome to watch her work ethic on the field  and her desire to assist her team mates to succeed. Megan has also joined Brittany and Kyle to sing in the Ward Choir.

Joshua is eight and is enjoying 2nd grade, also at J.L. Boren Elementary. Joshua chose to be baptized this year and also joined Cub Scouts. His first week happened to be the Pinewood Derby! Josh also played soccer this fall and was picked from the draft to play with the Mansfield Venom. He learned a lot from a very good coach. We were excited to see his growth.

Paul is five and loving Kindergarten, also at J.L. Boren Elementary. He is a friend to many. We watch as he always seems to have a new good friend to lift and have fun with. Paul also played soccer this fall. It was a joy to watch his team, Lightning, grow from running around aimlessly to a well-oiled team of Kindergarteners! Paul loves to ride his new bike and playing with his siblings.

Erica will be four this December. She loves helping Shawnie at home, especially cooking and playing with her little sister, Lydia. Erica took dance lessons this fall. If you can convince her that she really took the class, she might even dance for you. Whether she acknowledges it or not, she really does enjoy dancing!

Lydia is 18 months old and is our friend maker. Wherever she goes, she loves to look at people until they acknowledge her. Recently, she learned how to say hi, and will say 'hi' to complete strangers. She definitely knows how to lighten up someone's day. At home she loves giving hugs and kisses.

As for the coming year, we look forward to the addition of our seventh child in June 2012! We wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Love,

The Kyle and Shawnie Leonard Family

**Thanks to Brittany for writing the letter this year.

Brittany (12)

Megan (10)

Joshua (8)

Paul (5)

Erica (3, almost 4)

Lydia (18mos)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Little Red Hen & Why projects fail

Do you remember the children's story "The Little Red Hen?"  Wikipedia reminds us of the storyline, it is a story about a Hen who...

"...finds a grain of wheat, and asks for help from the other farmyard animals to plant it. However, no animal will volunteer to help her."

"At each further stage (harvest, threshing, milling the wheat into flour, and baking the flour into bread), the hen again asks for help from the other animals, but again she gets no assistance."

"Finally, the hen has completed her task, and asks who will help her eat the bread. This time, all the previous non-participants eagerly volunteer. However, she declines their help, stating that no one aided her in the preparation work, and eats it with her chicks, leaving none for anyone else." (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Little_Red_Hen)
Let's add a new modern twist to this story. What if the Farmer came to the Hen after planting the seed and told her "Good job! You've succeeded at planting the wheat. Now change your focus to work on making the bread. I need to justify to Mrs. Farmer the need to have you around."  The Hen may protest, "But I don't have any flour yet."  The Farmer's arrogant reply is , "It doesn't matter, I need results now. It doesn't even need to be a full loaf, one piece will do!"

It does not matter to the Farmer that a project plan was vetted through him and Mother Nature.  It needs to be changed now, even though following the original plan will get the Farmer a great tasting LOAF of bread. He just wants the Hen to throw something together by next week and 'prove Her worth' or to 'meet Mrs. Farmer's need for one piece of bread.'

Isn't this the typical reason projects fail or are extended?  What seems at the moment a great pressing need to succumb to outside pressure to change the scope of the project, is allowed to creep in and change everything up.  "Oh, we don't need to weed the soil or harvest the new wheat, or thresh & mill any new wheat.  We can use the pile of old flour over there.

If the project is just allowed to progress, the bread will be made at the end of the project. Or maybe a new project will need to spin up concurrently to make the fancier bread (raisin or multi-grain bread) being requested.  Non-the-less, either the natural progression of the project is stymied and ground is actually lost or the results of the project are not the full results that could have been achieved.

"But," goes the argument, "Mrs. Farmer got her piece of bread!"  And to that I reply, "Yes, but next time, the old pile of flour will have been used up and more work will be required to get the same results." 

So are we going to be a people of 'get rich quick' and rush to the results or at some point are we going to wake up to the fact that the foundation steps are required to achieve great results?