This column is dedicated to Mr. Hartwell Blake. LaVerne Bishop, CEO of Hale ‘Opio Kauai recently spoke with long-time board member Hartwell Blake, who suggested that a “Corner” be devoted to honor. Hartwell Blake is an attorney who served as county counsel to the County of Kauai for many years, after serving in private practice in Lihue, and as a public defender in Oregon and Idaho. He also served as Deputy Attorney General there.
Mr. Blake served in the United States Army from 1966-1970, stationed in Georgia, California, Massachusetts, Vietnam and Schofield Barracks. When he retired from legal practice, Mr. Blake became a part-time instructor in remedial reading at Koloa Elementary School and an instructor in the “About Face” program in Waimea High School. He was born and raised in Koloa. He cares about our youth.
So I paid Hartwell a visit. Mr. Blake is a wonderful storyteller who told me several stories relating to character development. Each could fill a corner, so I’ll get to the barest plots. One of the ways the Army teaches honor is to punish a whole squad for something that one soldier does wrong, and being dishonest is highly punishable.
The squad suffered when a member had sanded his Army brass so that it would look polished without as much work. Another time, a soldier was punished for “eyeballing.” When a commanding officer speaks to the troops, all are expected to give direct eye contact and not be distracted and look away (eyeballing). In his troop, a soldier followed a pretty WAC with his eyes as she walked by. Big trouble for everyone.
Now “improvisation” was allowed. The officers liked that. One time, Mr. Blake was assigned 25 laps around the airfield in full uniform, shined boots, shiny brass and all. He had one half of a week to do it, and nearly all of the soldiers’ time was scheduled. Sometimes, they’d even have their meal times cut down to 15 minutes because they were running behind.
The ingenious Blake secured a map of the field, and dressed in full uniform, circled it 25 times. When the C.O. asked “Mr. Hart, well! Have you circled the field in full dress uniform 25 times?” Blake shows the map and says, “Yes, sir!” “Is this the field that you circled?” “Yes sir?” It was accepted. He was honest and it was a win-win. Honor preserved.
Another story was told of when Mr. Blake took his Asian grandson to a playground in Savannah, Georgia. His grandson was much shorter than blond, blue-eyed Jim Bob, who was playing in the sand blocking the base of the steps up the slide. Jim Bob’s mama was reading “People Magazine” on a park bench nearby. The grandson wanted to go up the slide, but Jim Bob wasn’t budging.
Mama pipes up, “Now, Jim Bob, you let that nice young man by.” Maybe Jim Bob moved an inch. “Jim Bob?” Another inch or two. “Jim Bob, do I have to go over there?” This move allowed the grandson to inch by Jim Bob and get to the stairs. Goal reached, with a wild ride down, because it had been misting.
The grandson lands in the dirt, covered with dirt and leaf pieces. “Jim Bob, help that nice young man brush off that mess!” Jim Bob looked up in total surprise, but Mama walked on over and Jim Bob started to brush him off. She also helped. “Now Jim Bob, you give that boy a hug.” And he did. So did Mama. Now there’s a beautiful lesson in kindness and tolerance for another ethnic group, don’t you think?
People teach respect and kindness in different ways. Blake’s son had just completed his officers training, and it was his first day as a lieutenant. Blake asked how it went.
“Well you know, Dad, the squad was at ease when a WAC (Women’s Air Corps soldier) walked by, and the men whistled, and called out at her making rude remarks.”
“So how did you handle it?” Hartwell asked.
“I told them that in this day and time it could be their sister, daughter, mother or wife, and I don’t think that they’d like it if they were treated the way they just treated the WAC. They were quiet. They got the message.”
So what really is honor, or acting honorably? Hartwell told me that it was my job to research that. The dictionary defines honor as “honesty, fairness or integrity in one’s beliefs and actions.” Integrity means sticking with moral and ethical principles when temptation arises. It’s having a good moral character and being honest. In other words, it’s important to do the right thing. Good moral choices are those that demonstrate high principles for proper conduct … the right choices instead of wrong.
These are not always black and white choices and different people can have different ideas about what is right and what is wrong. But there are a lot of moral compasses along the way. The No. 1 appears to be The Golden Rule: Treat others as you would want to be treated.” This is a good rule to fall back on if things aren’t clear, and teaches empathy.
I wanted some more tangible info that makes honor clearer. I believe Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: “Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves, too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.” So I was paying attention to see how honor would show up in my life.
Yesterday, while waiting for my eyes to dilate at The Pacific Eye Center, I was treated to a loop of slides from www.simple truths.com. While I could still read, I furiously wrote them down. Then Dr. Sherrer informed me that one could go to the website and preview them. He has bought many. I’m sharing the ones that spoke to me about honor:
“If a man does his best, what else is there?” — Gen. George Patton
“Build a reputation as someone who tells the truth, and it will serve you well.”
“Start each day with a commitment to do what’s right. Seek courage to do the right thing.” (those two from the Simple Truths “Walk the Talk” loop)
“The true measure of a person is how they treat someone who can do them absolutely no good.” — Ann Landers
“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.” — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“A person who values privileges above principles loses both.” — President Dwight Eisenhower.
We make hundreds, maybe thousands of decisions a day. It’s important that we make them from the very best and highest part of ourselves that we can access. And then, if we make a mistake, it is important to repair the harm as quickly as possible before the effects affect too many.
Several years ago “The Butterfly Effect” was a theory that was gaining a lot of attention. Dr. Edward Lorenz, meteorologist and mathematician and one of the first proponents of the chaos theory, discovered that small unpredictable variations caused differences in weather patterns. “The term comes from the suggestion that the flapping of a butterfly’s wings in South America could affect the weather in Texas, meaning that the tiniest influence on one part of a system can have a huge effect on another part.”
A beautiful illustration of that is a story from “Simple Truths” about “John the Bagger.” John was a 19-year-old bagger at a grocery store. One day the staff was given a suggestion that they all do something to help customers come back to the store. At first John felt that he couldn’t do much because he was just a bagger, but then he had an idea.
At night he’d look for a “feel good” quotation, and if he couldn’t find one, he’d write one. He added, “Thanks for shopping at our store. Hope to see you again soon.” He duplicated these, and put them in the bottom of every bag that he bagged. In a few weeks, the lines where John was working were three times as long as the other lines! He’d done it. He’d made a difference and the people came back.
Your honor can only be lost through your own choices to behave dishonorably. God and you will always know the truth. But don’t forget the part about repairing the harm. Believe it or not, most people want to forgive, because they want to be forgiven. True remorse, helping to repair the harm, and making honorable choices restores honor to a person. It is never too early or too late to become an honorable person.
Hale ‘Opio Kaua’i convened a support group of adults in our Kauai community to “step into the corner” for our teens, to answer questions and give support to youth and their families on a wide variety of issues. Please email your questions or concerns facing our youth and families today to Annaleah Atkinson at firstname.lastname@example.org For more information about Hale ‘Opio Kaua’i, please go to www.haleopio.org