Making Change

8 Apr 2014 by gebhard, No Comments »

Roman-coin-hoard-found-at-007My first North Oaken War Maneuvers (a major melee event in my Kingdom) many years ago, was a place where I learned many things core to life in the SCA. Things like: Bourbon is not a substitute for water after a long day of fighting, Viking games are hysterical, especially if you’re not the one doing them, and always remember which tent is yours.

As I wrapped my sausages in pancakes at breakfast and gnawed on them, a bard sat near me and shared a few stories.  One was the funniest story I have ever heard, and I would share it with you now, if I could remember it. Instead I’ll tale his other story.

It was about a man who was walking on a path and a pebble that had gotten into his boot.  The pebble was annoying him as he walked. He tried to shake it out, and made all sorts of odd dancing moves to free the rock from his boot. He was in a hurry and had no time to undo all the straps on his boot and remove the pebble. Instead, he tried everything he could to get rid of it without taking off the boot.

None worked. So he resigned himself over to having to tolerate the pebble and continued on his way. The pebble started to round out as he walked, the edges breaking away.  It hurt less and less.

When he got to his destination, he sat and took off his boot, and a ruby fell out.

The moral of this story is:  It’s often hard to tell the rocks from the rubies on your first impression.

I know when I joined the SCA, I too was somewhat awkward. I laughed far too loud, was super eager to talk to anyone about really anything.  I didn’t take hints or clues very well.

However, a few people saw past my social failings and were friendly and encouraging. As such, I stayed. I try to keep this in mind, when that strange person shows up to a practice, or that other odd one at an event. We were all that person once.

On the other side of the coin, I have heard recent criticisms about our organization is how we enable problem people, that we are overly attached to a set of naive virtues of chivalry and to the idea that somehow through teaching said virtues, we can turn people with serious ethical issues around and make them paragons of goodness.

While I may agree to some aspect of this concept, it’s certainly is not the whole picture. I’ll explain.

Just before I joined the SCA, my main pastime, besides my job, was playing MMO’s (online video games).  The only exercise I got in any given day was the walk from my desk to the fridge to get another slice of pizza.

When I started fighting, my MMO time dropped off pretty quickly. During my early years in the SCA, there was awesome podcast called “Pain Bank”,  On one episode, they interviewed Duke Bardolf.  He talked a lot about training. One of his points was, “what are you doing everyday to improve yourself?” Often the guy who wins a tournament is the one who has been training the most.

I got to thinking that maybe it would be nice to not be hit in the head so often. So I started very slowly to do a thing I had not done in a long time, exercise. I started walking the dogs, and jogging a little, doing push-ups and hitting the pell.  It grew to more and more, and the positive effects became unquestionable.

The improvement opportunities open to us are not just physical ones. We can start learning how to interact with others better, how to tell people “no” nicely, and just how many balls we can juggle at once (literally and figuratively).

The SCA is one of the friendliest environments to self improvement I have seen.  We are very accepting and often far more patient that we should be with people’s shortcomings. I see this as a strength and not a weakness.

Can we make people better? No. But, we can give opportunities so that people will want to make themselves better.

In turn, by improving ourselves, we make the SCA a little better… everyday with practice, patience and time, we may all refine ourselves into something even more valuable.

My secret collection of Pain Bank pod casts: link

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