Cities are like people. They breath, work, play, sleep. Cities experience stress, can feel tight, like sense sense of foreboding and unease before a storm. Tense and holding a breath, becoming sweaty and anxious, cities can build strain. The rains arrive, the apprehension cleansed, the city plays in the rain, grime and salt and sticky film of humidity washes away. Fresh, clean, comforting breezes replace the stagnant, warm cloying air from the afternoon. The city, rejuvenated from the shower and ready to play, comes alive like a 4th grader anticipating the recess bell. From stories above the street, people mill like children on the playground, their voices tinkling and giggling, rising to the windows floors above the sidewalks of San Diego.
How we frame circumstances can determine how those circumstances affect us. When I arrived in my hotel and checked out my room, I ran across a small note and an even smaller box of earplugs. “As you settle in, we want to point out that we are a Downtown Gaslamp District Hotel. There is activity in the area 24 hours a day.” The recommendation to drown out the noise was to turn on either the fan or the A/C or both and wear ear plugs. Night-time noise has never bothered me. I was the child who always wanted to listen to adults in conversation, to be outside at night, to listen to the city at night. At home, I can’t sleep with the windows open as often as I would like. Temperatures prevent that, either too warm or too cool. But, when I can, I do. When I travel, and conditions allow, I sleep with windows open, especially in San Diego. My guess, people hear each sound as unique and peculiar, each horn, each trill of laughter, each pedicab bell, the rush of wheels on a wet street, claps of heels on pavement, the boom-boom-boom of music. I hear the sounds, too, but for some reason they affect me as the simple noises of an organism, like a dog snoring, or a habitat similar to camping in a forest. For the most part, the regular noises of ‘outside’ don’t bother me. The forest has a sound environment; a city has a sound environment. Regardless of sirens, people shouting, dogs barking, nearly any sound, I have found I have little reaction other than to keep snoozing.
San Diego has a rich auditory environment, a trait I look forward to when I visit. Weird, I know. Who looks forward to the auditory landscape of a city? Who looks forward to the sounds of the trolley, the train, the police, women shouting at men, men shouting men, people shouting, bells ringing, rain falling, engines of cars racing? The only window able to be opened is opened, and as I type my notes from the day, I listen to the muted tones of Gaslamp San Diego.
Except for alarm clocks. Those devices seem to occupy a separate brain-space unique to them in my head.
Servants as Leaders
Today, we learned about servants as leaders. People who endeavor to help people work through other things. Programmers, GIS gurus, educators, biologists, teachers – they are all servants. Yet, if we frame their efforts differently, they are leading the way to success, to achievement, to accomplishing goals. A servant as a leader may seem counter-intuitive; how can a servant also be a leader? People attribute Jesus as being a servant and leader, and many people around us who advocate for specific policies, rules, or treatment may also be seen as leaders while also serving a community.
Everyone in the photo above, from the ESRI staff on the stage to the people in the audience, are servants to some degree. We all serve in some capacity, to some degree; then we undertake “fast-hat-switching” and become a leader for some activity, event, cause, or task. Some of these people may teach GIS, may teach middle school science or math or social studies. In doing so they are serving their students, being a custodian of learning, serving their community by encouraging thoughtful contemplation and critical thinking among their students. They lead by setting goals, setting examples, by directing and mentoring young minds not only to help them achieve academically but also offering assistance for personal dilemmas.
I’m in good company in the above photo. Mr. Jeremy Weber (Geo-Jobe, Nashville) once served the Nashville city schools. While helping Nashville develop routing apps for school buses, he also developed tools for helping administer ESRI’s ArcGIS Online for Organizations. The fellow in the middle with his eyes closed is Dr. Fred Miller. Dr. Miller is a geolocation guru for ESRI, having published two books on geography and the science of geolocation for ESRI Press. Dr. Miller also advocates for GIS in Europe, helping foster education between our university and Germany by working with our study-abroad program.
Both of these individuals foster learning environments, one in the private sector, one in the public sector. Both work with universities and encourage faculty, staff, and students to learn tools, gather knowledge, and translate the tools and knowledge into critical thinking skills which one day might then metamorphose into wisdom. One can dare to dream, right?
Next time you are at an event, a conference, a professional development meeting, a seminar, keep in mind everyone is both a servant and leader. More precisely, I suppose, everyone has the potential to fulfill dual roles of servant-as-leader.
Like I mentioned earlier, sometimes we simply need to reframe our perspective on a topic, a concern, or some circumstance in order to modify our appreciation or understanding of that thing, whatever that thing might be.