Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Epiphany #45: Five Answers, Five Questions

Bob's Just-Made-Up Rule #17:  When you come across two lists with the same number of items on them, juxtapose them to see if they reveal anything.

Recently, at a Boys' School conference, one of the keynote speakers asked the question, "What Makes A Good Man?"  In this context, one of teaching (and parenting, for you readers with growing children, not just boys, of course), the word "make" implies school (or parental) decisions to instill these traits in their charges.  The speaker offered five traits that, if accomplished, would go a long way toward ensuring positive manhood.  He called them "The Five Wells":

1.  Well-read.
2.  Well-spoken.
3.  Well-dressed.
4.  Well-traveled.
5.  Well-balanced.

To me, it was one of those lists that seems obvious when you first hear it, but when you ponder some of its implications, it becomes more interesting to try to make happen.  For example, the idea of being well-spoken, when broken down, means not just being successful in public speaking, it also means knowing how and when to "code switch" between how a child (or adult) might talk with his teacher, his family, or his friend group.  Those of us who teach know plenty of bright students who don't know how to do this.

Well-read does not necessarily mean being able to check off a "canon" of great books; rather it refers to a student who has become a discerning reader who can judge tone, veracity, reliability as a source, etc.

Well-traveled obviously does not mean the wealthy student lucky enough to ski with his family in a different location each Christmas vacation.

I believe the concept of "The Five Wells" originally comes from the president of Morehouse College, but you may want to extrapolate their possibilities further on your own.  There might be some "Wells" of your own that you might add?


The other day, I took my father to hospice.  While his health is currently sound, being the organized and in control man that he is, he wants to make sure that everything is in order for the end of his life, whenever that may come.  It's actually a very smart idea, one that is reinforced when you meet with a hospice nurse and she hands you a packet with five questions about End-Of-Life decisions:

1.  What kind of medical treatment that might be undertaken to extend your life do you want or not want?
2.  Who do you want to make health care decisions for you when you can't make them?
3.  Do your family and loved ones know what your wishes are?
4.  How comfortable do you want to be in your final days, in terms of food, water, pain-killing drugs?
5.  Who, or better put, where do you want to be treated, as in, primarily, at home or in a hospital?

My father, of course, has absolute answers for all of these questions.  But when I ran them by a couple of friends and myself, none of had thought about it much, if at all, and we didn't really have answers.  He was counseled to have copies of his wishes in a number of places, including on his person, because if you don't, someone else, likely with professional obligations, will make them for you.

I know this isn't something that most of us are inclined to want to think about very often, but maybe figure it out one time and get it written down and put it away someplace safe.

The way that a good man or woman finishes up is just as important as how he or she begins the journey.

1 comment:

Robert Berman said...

Something like "Well oriented," perhaps? As good as it is to acquire the skills represented in the "Five Wells," to what use does the graduate intend to put those skills? Building his own empire? Alleviating human suffering? Trampling the less-skilled? Advancing the state of some art?