Monday, June 30, 2014

On Respect, Volunteering, and Walking

It’s generally accepted that it’s a good thing to be respectful. But what does being respectful mean? I think there’s an idea that to be respectful means to always be nice to others—but I find that idea misguided.

It’s important to assume a default attitude of niceness. Generally speaking, the world is a better place if you be nice to others. But sometimes a person is no longer worthy of your respect. Oftentimes, this happens because this person has done something or said something which has hurt someone you respect even more. At times like these, dropping the "be nice to others" strategy is perfectly acceptable—you should stand up for that person who still holds your respect, in the face of the one who has lost it.

In short: Be nice to other people as you come across them, but be loyal to those who have earned your respect.

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The high school system I’m going through requires a certain number of volunteer hours to be completed before graduation. The most common way to earn these hours is through volunteering at summer camps; I did this, working with disabled campers in a one-on-one setting, to help them make the most out of their experience.

I don’t volunteer with camps anymore, though. Now I volunteer my time towards writing code, specifically open-source code which is freely shared with the world. The project I dedicate most of my time to is WordPress and its related efforts, pitching in time to help build a platform which brings the power of self-publishing to so many people for free.

I started out with this code volunteering by fixing typos and grammatical errors and unclear instructions whenever I came across them. It was a great outlet to practice these skills, and all the while I was helping any future users of that code understand it better.

You can volunteer with open source projects too, whether you’re a person who can code or not. Look up "Contributing to WordPress" to learn how you can help by translating, documenting, or all sorts of other activities. And if you know how to code, pitch in that way! Don’t let the size of the project daunt you—we try to be a friendly bunch! If you need some more direction to get started, send me an email and I’d be glad to help you.

People often lose track of the value of volunteering once they enter the "real world". But the sense of accomplishment and pride it gives you is second-to-none.

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My profession is as a designer, which means I spend a lot of time indoors hunched over a computer or sketchbook. But the activity I enjoy most in the world is walking.

Throughout my day, I’ll take many walking breaks. Sometimes 20 minutes, sometimes an hour, sometimes far more, all dedicated to the leisurely activity of walking. While I walk, I don’t listen to music. Actually, I usually leave my phone at home.

Walking is a way to remind me that we’re too busy trying to be connected to a world beyond our local one, and it’s a way to connect me with what’s going on around me. Walking the same (or similar) routes each day lets you see the change over time in a space and get to know everyone around.

Go out on walks and talk with the people you encounter. It’s one of the most rewarding things I do.

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Well, that’s it folks. Please get in touch! I’d love to get to know you better.


Lucas Cherkewski
lucas[AT]lucascherkewski.com
Waterloo, ON

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